Sunday, December 18, 2011

What will the SNP government do to restore democracy at the local level in Scotland?

Gurnites please note, it has been a bit of a busy weekend on the Gurn so scroll down after this article to see the latest.

Those Gurnites who have attended some of the meetings held by the usual suspects this year (that is to say the Community Council forum and NICE etc) will have heard the word "Localism" mentioned a few times and the belief expressed that the wind of change is blowing through Holyrood, meaning that communities like Nairn might soon have more chance of having a greater say in the decisions made that affect their areas. The set-up at Nairn hospital where Health and Social services are working together has been cited as a test-bed for the rest of Scotland and it has been further suggested that Nairn could do a lot more in localism experimentation and thus show the rest of the country the way. Hopefully Holyrood will give us that chance.

The Gurn has mentioned Common Good campaigner Andy Wightman before, he wrote recently:
"Arguments for greater devolution or indeed outright independence reflect an extension of the idea that power should reside as close as possible to the people and that decisions that can be made locally, should be. However, at the same time as Scotland is on a journey to greater autonomy as a nation, the opposite is happening at the local level."

At the national level in Scotland we are doing very well, Holyrood has the sort of powers that members of the Breton regional government can only dream of at present but at the local level the drift has been to more and more centralisation. That is a philosophy that the administration members of the Highland Council that represent Nairn have subscribed to. Everything we have lost in the last five years has gone on their watch.

Wightman also states: "The lack of any real local governance represents not simply a democratic deficit but a problem of practical politics. Scotland is replete with a wide variety of definitions of community for a whole host of different purposes. Community Council areas may be the closest we come to a geography of community but coverage is patchy, boundaries unclear and powers non-existent." More from Andy Wightman's' article here.

We know what the Scottish Government aspires to do for us at national level but what do they intend to do for communities at the micro level? At the end of this term of Government could it just be possible that Nairn would have restored the power to decide who gets social housing within the boundaries of the County; to organise it's own grass-cutting and grounds maintenance; to decide planning matters within the County too? Will we get back control of the Common Good fund from Highland Council as well? It'll be interesting to see what initiatives the Scottish Government come up with at this level.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt much if anything will return to local control, too much cost involved