Issue 7: Nov 2013

LAUNCH OF COMMISSION FOR STRENGTHENING LOCAL DEMOCRACY

By Professor Richard Kerley

As part of the debate surrounding the referendum of next year CoSLA has launched an independent commission on strengthening local democracy.

Supported by CoSLA and with representatives of all elected groups in Scottish local government, the Commission has independent members to widen the debate and ensure a broader range of voices are heard in this discussion.

COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill has himself stressed the ‘strengthening local democracy' in contrast to local government itself.

Everyone knows that regardless of the outcome of the Referendum the status quo will not prevail in Scotland, but there has been very little consideration of what this should mean for local people and local decision making.

“With one year to go until the Referendum, it’s time for the debate about Scotland’s future to focus on the questions that local people, not politicians, are asking.  

“Everyone knows that regardless of the outcome of the Referendum the status quo will not prevail in Scotland, but there has been very little consideration of what this should mean for local people and local decision making.“

It is clear that since the Parliament was first legislated for almost 15 years ago, there has been little overall thought given to local democracy in any formal considered and open way.  Changes have been ad hoc and often driven by imperatives such as cost savings (in the case of Police and Fire & Rescue Services), or an argument for efficiency such as in the Further Education sector. It is apparent that O’Neill is highly sceptical about what he sees as an increasing trend of centralisation of services to a Scottish Government level; a trend that has a legacy of several decades under Westminster and Holyrood governments of all parties.

“Over the decades we have moved away from the local aspect of almost everything. More and more services are being run by distant bureaucracies and often those services are being done to people rather than delivered with them.  Yet across Europe, the opposite is often true. That trend simply won’t see us through for much longer, because it is no coincidence that our European neighbours are often more successful at improving outcomes.”

CoSLA is launching this initiative in order to ensure that the next year of the independence debate is not simply based on a Westminster versus Holyrood discussion but goes further and deeper into communities throughout Scotland.

It is clear that since the Parliament was first legislated for almost 15 years ago, there has been little overall thought given to local democracy in any formal considered and open way.

So David O’Neill stresses the extent to which he and other leading CoSLA figures want to see that wider range of voices recognised.

“Most importantly of all, this Commission will be listening to the views of people and communities across Scotland and setting out what it would take to put stronger local democracy at the heart of Scotland’s constitutional future.“

Several of those involved in the Commission will be joining the MacKay Hannah Conference 'Re-Imagining Scottish Local Government' on November 19th.

Richard Kerley, Editor of Scottish Policy Now, is an academic advisor to the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy.

By Professor Richard Kerley

Issue 7: Nov 2013

Issue 7: Nov 2013

HEALTH, WELL BEING AND AGEING: SCOTLAND 2020

Re-energising the move towards integrated care

Scotland's move to integrated care can learn from elsewhere by focussing on two key differentiators between successful partnerships and those paying lip service to integrated working: Shared outcomes and common language is one, the other is demonstrating mutual investments and mutual benefits.

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