Cllr Robert Brown
Rutherglen South, Liberal Democrat
There has been a fashion for a long time for more centralisation in Edinburgh – a single police force, central control of council tax, central targets on everything that moves.
The proposals by SNP education secretary John Swinney to grab powers from local councils over schools in the name of “education reform”is the latest in a long line of salami slicing changes that have damaged local democracy.
There was a time when local councils ran buses, trams and colleges, controlled water and sewerage, and provided municipal gas and other services. In the post war period, there were major house building and regeneration programmes run for the most part by councils or local housing associations.
Liberal Democrats have called for South Lanarkshire Council to be more open and accountable to local communities. But councils should also become again the main engines of local democracy – resourced to do the job properly, raising more of their own finance rather than being dependent on handouts from central government, empowered to do what is necessary to let local communities thrive, responsible to local people for different visions of what works locally.
But councils need to work locally too, in partnership with local organisations, helping them build capacity, delivering effective community power for areas like Rutherglen and Cambuslang.
The debate has changed over Brexit too. No longer is the talk of opportunities – rather is it how to limit the damage being caused by Brexit. Public opinion is turning against the whole thing.
Vince Cable MP, set to become the new Liberal Democrat leader, says he thinks Brexit may well not happen because of its sheer complexity and the huge problems and disruption it will cause. He is right – the whole Brexit thing is an enormous mistake.
Yet Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both committed to a hard Brexit. Indeed Jeremy Corbyn has always been hostile to the European Union. But why on earth is the Labour Party giving such a free hand to the Tories on Brexit?
Cllr Robert Brown