Thursday, May 10, 2012

Local democracy broken in Scotland

Reading this post on the APT blog led this observer to a document called The Silent Crisis - Failure and Revival in Local Democracy in Scotland. Gurnites that take the time to browse that document will recognise some of the symptoms that demonstrate the democratic deficit that we have not only here in Nairn but throughout Scotland. There are statistics that clearly illustrate how little local government we have in comparison with other European countries. Many of the issues that have been to the fore in Nairn in recent years have their origins in this democratic deficit. A town the size of Nairn should be able to decide a lot more for itself and should not be dictated too by an Inverness based centralised local authority.  Here are three quotes from that document that perhaps might interest you in reading it in its entirety. The first is from the forward by Lesley Riddoch:

“What’s the average budget of a community council in Scotland? Go on. Guess. It’s £400. That says almost everything you need to know about local empowerment in Scotland. Of course money can’t buy you democracy any more than it buys you love. But the near zero budget for Scotland’s “community tier” of governance matches its near zero powers and near zero number of contested elections. This is not local democracy.” 

"This is mainly because Scottish local authorities are very large and are in no really meaningful sense ‘local’,
 certainly not at community level. In them there is no way to ensure the democratic wishes of any individual community. Below them there is virtually no democratic structure whatsoever, and where there are (elected community councils still functioning) those structures have very little power and virtually no budget."

"It is time we fully recognised the state of democracy in Scotland. Below the national level, Scotland is the least democratic country in the European Union; some have argued that it is the least democratic country in the developed world. We elect fewer people to make our decisions than anyone else and fewer people turn out to vote in those elections than anyone else. We have much bigger local councils that anyone else, representing many more people and vastly more land area than anyone else, even other countries with low density of population."

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