Last Thursday the Scottish Green Party launched their document “Renewing Local Democracy in Scotland” in Nairn at an event held in the Community Centre. In the question and answer session after the introduction by leading figures in the Scottish Greens (video here) there was a slight difference of opinion between Martha Wardrop, a Glasgow Councillor, and author and land rights campaigner Andy Wightman over the role of community councils in a potential new landscape of local democracy in Scotland.
Many Gurnites, especially the Community Councils’ ‘usual suspects’ and many of the NICE rank and file, often exercise their thoughts on how more democracy could be restored to Nairn and, as we surmised in a pervious article, much of what the Scottish Greens outlined in the Nairn Community Centre last week would probably have been refreshing to those in the area who wish to see great changes in the way ‘local’ government is organised. Interesting then perhaps to focus on some of what was said by the Greens about Community Councils.
Martha said: “I think it would be important to hear the views of Community Councils as part of this debate because we wouldn’t want to disenfranchise community councillors. They have an important role at the moment and many of them want to have resources to make decisions about roads, lighting, street cleansing, general park maintenance arrangements, the local High Streets. We need to take account of existing boundaries that have been established for community councils in this and whether they would be workable within the arrangement.”
Andy then said: “Let’s be clear the Green Party has its policy and views on Community Councils. In the report I argue let’s forget about Community Councils, they’re done, they’re finished. There’s an advantage of starting with that as your base and building up. The problem there is a political one. If you have to drag powers out of existing ones down to that then that’s a hard claw of a job. Also they do not have a great name, reputation, in some places they are doing fantastic work, in a lot of Scotland they are doing mediocre work. The notion that you are going to sell a new democracy on the basis of more power to Community Councils was in my view, because I wrote the report – kind of sends the wrong political message and the other thing is that in an historical context Community Councils were given as a sop in 1973. The towns were very angry that their councils were going. They wanted to keep their land, their wanted to keep their Common Good assets – they weren’t allowed to do that so they just drafted a few clauses and said: “We’ll take account of your interests. […] And then people said we still want a voice in this new district and regional authority. “We’ll give you a Community Council” and then they said well do they have any powers and “We’ll consult you”. So the very genesis of this thing was a sop.”
Previous article, including video, of the Scottish Greens high heid yins in Nairn here.