Robinson welcomes local democracy debate

SIC political leader Gary Robinson has welcomed a discussion over the future of Scotland’s councils following the launch of a new government inquiry.

On Monday it was announced the local government and regeneration committee will look at issues such as autonomy, flexibility and funding to local authorities.

It will also examine how councils engage with the public, turnouts at local elections and how remote and island communities are served in local government structures.

The committee is inviting views as part of the process and Mr Robinson said he imagined the council would be making a submission.

“It’s a broad committee so there are a lot of things we [the council] would want to be putting forward,” he said.

This would include looking at the funding of inter-island ferries or fixed links. Governance and finance in local government also needed to be looked at overall, he said.

“There’s certainly no question that local government is feeling the squeeze and there doesn’t appear to be any light on the horizon in terms of funding for local government.

“We fully expect to see more reductions in granted expenditure coming through from government beyond the referendum.”

Committee convener Kevin Stewart, said the inquiry was about looking across Scotland as well as beyond, to make sure local government is in “the best place to face the future”

“Local democracy plays a vital role in the lives of people across Scotland,” he said.

“As we debate questions about Scotland’s constitutional future it is timely our committee take the opportunity to examine whether the local democratic structures currently in place are right for Scotland, no matter what the future may bring.

“Our committee will look at a range of issues during this inquiry and we want to hear from those with an interest in how local government operates as well as those living and working in communities about their experiences of local government.”

The committee is expected to hear reports in April.

Meanwhile, Mr Robinson will be meeting with the minister for local government and planning, Derek Mackay on Monday as part of The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group. This is to discuss matters such as tourism, building, transport and digital communications in the isles.

It is the fourth of six group meetings – with officials of Orkney and Western Isles councils also members.

Mr Robinson said the group was looking at what could be done in the islands regardless of a referendum campaign.

He added the Our Islands Our Future campaign – seeking greater autonomy for the island communities – was non party political and those campaigning should be able to gain cross party support for what they were asking for.

Mr Robinson said there had been a “positive engagement” in terms of the working group meetings.

A prospectus would be drawn up following the six meetings for all three councils to consider before things moved forward.

“The things we are speaking about are not desperately contentious – they are all things in favour of the islands,” said Mr Robertson.

“It’s just to seek a better and clearer role for local government in the islands.”


Add Your Comment

    • February 11th, 2014 15:06

    Many of us in the North Isles, and I suspect in the more remote parts of the mainland, would welcome a debate with Mr Robinson and his colleagues about ” How remote and island communities are served in local government structures”. The answer, quite simply, is that they are not. It seems to us that we are bearing the real pain of the financial cutbacks, through school closures, reduced ferry services etc etc.
    I do not blame our three excellent North Isles councillors who are doing their best to fight the galloping centralisation that is infecting Shetland. They are constantly outvoted by the Lerwick centric remainder. It was delicious irony to read Malcolm Bell’s complaints about “central belt” influence on emergency services. Remember that it was his casting vote that condemned Skerries to the history books.

    A healthy debate, properly moderated, about what we want Shetland to be like, should be greatly encouraged.

    Alan Skinner
    New House


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