One of the big themes in Scottish politics in recent years has been the Labour and SNP impulse to centralise anything that stands still for long enough. The SNP Government, against all good advice and much opinion, recently merged Scotland’s 8 police forces into one.
In contrast, the Liberal Democrats under Willie Rennie’s leadership have been emphasising giving power to local communities. Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland writes in the Scotsman about how giving more power to community councils could help deliver the sorts of services communities need, including schools.He cites the example of a plan to close a secondary school on one of the Shetland islands and send the children on a 30 minute ferry journey which will force them to be away from their families during the week:
A total of 47 children aged 11 to 18 would have to take a 30-minute ferry trip to school. In fair weather that might work. But this is the North Sea and weather delays happen. If the entire secondary school population is removed from the island for the week what does that do for the social and family side of life?
But there is another solution – devolving the power to the local community council:
Scotland needs a new way of invigorating local democracy. A way which does not rely on the government of the day interfering in local schools and other essential services. Community Councils could be the way to do that. Local authorities are cutting spending and are desperate to find other bodies to take on services. Voluntary bodies are very popular in town halls if they will do something for free. Community Councils could take on many more local functions if local authorities showed a greater understanding of their potential.
But for community councils to work effectively they need to be legitimate. They need to reflect their name and be embedded and owned by the people in an area. Across Europe local government involves far more people. This keeps decision making local and representative.
You can read the whole article here.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings