Dear Orkney News,
According to Professor James Mitchell, professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh the Scottish parliamentary democratic system is due an overhaul.
Although the professor was primarily referring to the shortcomings of the Holyrood committee system, there is also a need to look closer to home.
Local government is at the front line of our democracy. It’s the closest level of government to our communities and deals with many of the bread-and-butter issues that affect people in their day to day lives in the places where they live.
The re-organisation of local government is long overdue. Authority is more effective when it is closer to the community that it serves and is accountable to.
Our current system of 32 unitary authorities should be separated into regions, areas, and communities and each level provided with specific autonomous powers like our European and Scandinavian neighbours – managed by properly remunerated representatives to more effectively provide for those they serve.
Currently, there are around 1200 community councils in Scotland and their sole statutory role is to act as a voice for their local area –
What a waste of a valuable voluntary resource.
In contrast, their equivalents across our European and Scandinavian neighbours, hold autonomous authority plus the necessary funding for the provision and operation of a devolved range of services.
Having a say in local services provision in areas that people can relate their daily lives to, results in a stronger sense of ownership at the community level. This sense of ownership is then more likely to extend to the national dimension and support the case for self-governance.
Community councils operate under a written constitution, but where is the equivalent national constitution? Human nature being what it is there is a need for a written constitution that is agreed and authorised by the general population – to set out the rules about how Scotland will be run and the scope of the powers of those whom we elect to govern us.
The charity, Constitution for Scotland, has set up a website www.constitutionforscotland.scot where the people of Scotland can view what could be in a constitution and where they can make suggestions and comment and vote on their preferences.
Yours, Robert Ingram, Aberdeen