Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reform Scotland comes up with a proposal to cut Scottish councils from 32 to 19, you don’t increase voter turn out by restricting democracy!

Dear All

In the recent local council elections, the turn out was rather poor to say the least, any election needs a good turnout so that the results have credibility.

In some places like Australia there is compulsory voting in place, the idea ensures large voter turn out.

One thing is certain, something has to be done to increase turn out.

Reform Scotland has come up with an idea that the number of Scottish councils should be cut by almost half from the current 32, to 19.

The trend in Scotland is towards more centralisation which in some areas is desirable and in others less so.

Local councils are all about localism that is the reason they exist to deal with specific issues and problems in a designated area.

To move away from that concept is wrong.

Another idea for local councils is to boost their powers to revitalise local government, this idea has merit, if the right powers are handed over.

Reform Scotland also believes that health and police boards should be scrapped, and their responsibility added to councils.

I am not in favour of this, rather than having less accountability we should be having more, because 5 years is not acceptable to hold someone to account, especially when they have a majority.

There is a "crisis" in local government as Reform Scotland points out, but the crisis is the lack of vision.

In Glasgow, the SNP presented a manifesto to the people was bland and out of touch!

It wasn’t written for the benefit of the people rather it was written for the benefit of Nicola Sturgeon’s clique.

They said that their findings were the result of 18 months of consulting the people. This is a bit surprising because effectively no work was done by branches I was a member of.

To be clear after May 2011 post election.

May no branch work was done.

June no branch work was done.

July no branch work was done.

August no branch work was done.

September no branch work was done.

October no branch work was done.

November no branch work was done.

December no branch work was done.

January no branch work was done.

9 months of inactivity by the branches.

SNP Candidates were selected at end of January 2012, they simply took the data from Holyrood 2011 and added it together with the canvassing forms issued as part of their election campaign and stated they had been working for 18 months.

That was the reality of the Glasgow SNP Branches I was in.

It is wrong to say that the poor turnouts at the May council elections are a groundswell for Reform Scotland’s ideas.

They are not.

The recommendations have been dismissed by local authority umbrella group Cosla and the Scottish government.

Reform Scotland chairman Ben Thomson said:

"It is clear from the recent disappointing local election turnout that we have to take action against the erosion of local democracy in Scotland”.

By centralising and decreasing local democracy?

A Cosla Spokesman described the Reform Scotland report as "disappointing" and said some of the thinking behind it was "woolly and piecemeal".

He added:

"It is also interesting and somewhat odd that a think tank that champions localism is trying to deny councils the opportunity to be truly local with some of the suggestions in this report."

A Scottish government spokesman said:

"Our approach to reforming Scotland's public services, following on from the Christie Commission's recommendations, is about making sure that they are consistently well-designed and delivered to the right people by the right people it does not rely on wholesale structural reform. Local authorities are already finding innovative ways of collaborating and improving frontline services to deliver the best outcomes for the people of Scotland”.

There is a massive case for local government reform to be had, Reform Scotland is off at a tangent, it rightly identifies a problem re low turnout by comes up with a solution which doesn’t address the issue at all.

The solution to a problem isn’t the creation of another problem.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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