We must champion Scotland’s communities

tumblr_inline_mr4r9yH5sc1qhgztoShaun Fraser says decisions on the future of Scotland’s disparate communities are best taken by those who care the most about these communities: the people who live and work there.


I don’t believe in centralisation.

I don’t believe that things work more efficiently from a central control. I don’t believe that government works in the best interests of peripheral communities when it is drawing emphasis towards the centre; invariably the needs of the ‘far away’ are muffled by the clamour of the more immediate.

For a small nation, Scotland is intensely disparate. We have the huge bulk of our population concentrated in the cities and towns of the central-belt and along the east coast. What speckles the vast remainder of the country are townships and villages varying in rurality, connectivity and investment.

Devolution is a hugely empowering and effectual force. This force should be dispersed across Scotland for the benefit of all regions. Decision making should not be swelled and beheld solely in Edinburgh. Where appropriate, power should be entrusted to our local authorities and communities. To pinch a turn of phrase, decisions on the future of these communities are best taken by those who care the most about these communities: the people who live and work there.

The SNP seem quite content for devolution to halt at Holyrood. Since coming to power in 2007 they have centralised decisions about policing and fire services in the central belt. This has damaged local accountability. It has led to police with guns patrolling the streets of the Highlands; community policing Old Firm style. Control rooms and public counters at police stations have been closed.

In the health service, the Scottish Government has imposed a new rule on health boards limiting the amount they can spend on capital works at hospitals without the permission of central government. This means the central government now has centralised decisions on major works at hundreds of hospitals, rather than the decisions being taken more locally.

Local councils have had their funding and council tax levels dictated stringently by central government. The degree of austerity which has been imposed on our local authorities without allowing them the means by which to mitigate this has been scandalous. It has led to essential support services being cut and valued public amenities closing.

The SNP believe in the transfer of power from one domineering parliament to another. They use devolution as an instrument through which to be nation-builders, consolidating authority in the capital and imposing a conceited one-size-fits-all Scottish solution for everywhere from Maryhill to Mangurstadh.

Nicola Sturgeon made a promise about delivering a new deal for Scotland’s islands before the Holyrood election earlier this year. The detail of this was thin but the spirit is to be welcomed. However, any action taken should take place with the whole of Scotland in mind. We should push for similar packages for the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, the Borders etc. Each region has its own specific propensity.

We in Scottish Labour should be grappling this issue robustly. Scotland has a vacuum in democratic diffusion. The voices of our peripheral communities are being undermined. As a party, too, often it feels that on a UK-level we are chattering in a Shoreditch bubble and on a Scottish-level we are facing solely towards our remnants in the central-belt.

We should be fighting for strong communities with strong voices, for rights matched by responsibilities. Above all else we should be striving to make ourselves valid to the wider nation.

This is about giving voice to the country at large. Devolution is a process not a destination. We need to fight for power for a purpose.

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7 thoughts on “We must champion Scotland’s communities

  1. Having everything local would be great. Where would the money come from to do it? Working with Westminster pocket money means we can’t afford the duplication of roles.
    Independence would give us the choice of spending the money on Trident or local services.

  2. “Shaun Fraser says decisions on the future of Scotland’s disparate communities are best taken by those who care the most about these communities: the people who live and work there.”

    That’s the stand out case for National Independence in the context between Government from Edinburgh relative to Government from London.

    Would you not rather see a fully Independent Parliament distribute fully Independent local authority rather than a mini me devolved Parliament distribute mini me devolved local authority?

    Why from a pro union perspective would having mini me local authority be better than having fully Independent local authority?

    No wait you’re actually arguing for Independence at a local level because you believe local authorities relative to central authority in Scotland is the mini me version and you believe it doesn’t work for the benefit of local areas.

    Are you people so divorced from self awareness you cant see the inbuilt default contradiction when trying to demand full local autonomy from central local authority while advocating for a central Union authority over local National authority at a political union level?

  3. Shaun, you speak for all of us, and for none.
    Of course we all want decisions made as locally as possible. But true power comes with fiscal control and few councils could raise the finance they need from their communities. Perhaps you have a solution?
    Police—-I for one, noticed no great change with a single force. Perhaps because I lived in a part of Scotland where one force (Strathclyde) already ruled over more than half of Scots.
    Nor would I complain about a tiny number of armed police in this day and age. The old procedure of having guns in a gun safe in the locked boot of a car, requiring an age to actually utilise them, is beyond parody. It was the Lib Dems who whined the most about this—I’ll bet they had no complaints when it was Lib Dem Ministers being protected by armed police.
    You complain about the SNP centralising this or that or the next thing, but were things so different when Labour had power? Its actually the opposition who bring up issues which are the responsibility of others, to attack the SNP government. Like asking the FM why someone in a hospital hasn’t got a blanket—this at a time when there was a huge scandal in hospitals in England—— where neither the opposition or media blamed the Minister in charge as being responsible.
    You complain about Police stations closing. Why would they be kept open when only one or two people a day use them? That is the economics of the mad house.
    If there is to be further devolution of power to regions etc, then there will be a gradual disparity BETWEEN regions, as the better off or better run grow faster. Is this what you want?

  4. We should have the right to make our own mistakes, hence people like me support independence as a first step. Why the Hell don’t you?

  5. This all sounds quiet reasonable, but when you look at the reality of Labours record running councils in Scotland you can see why the SNP government at Holyrood has a problem with devolving powers. Labours Lanarkshire council is bogged down in stories of dodgy maintenance contracts awarded to companies where the family members of Labour councillors are directors of those same companies. In Glasgow the Labour group are fighting like ferrets in a sack and the last two leaders, remember them Gordon and Stephen?
    Shaun, your concern that “Scotland has a vacuum in democratic diffusion” sounds sanctimonious hollow nonsense, infact I dont know what democratic diffusion is? The reality of the situation is Labour has badly let Scotland down over the decades. The Labour Party and its MPs and councillors have used Scotland, they have looked at their country and said what can it do for me.
    This is pay back time. Next year at May council elections Labour will find out just how angry Scotland is with Labours last remaining councils. There is nothing Labour can do. It is called the democratic process not democratic diffusion.

  6. A strange article at this time. Talk about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic…

    Not sure if you noticed, Shaun, but Britain is in meltdown right now and you are moaning about a subject that few people outside of Auchtermuchty really care too much about.

    Strangest of all, the very underlying principle of your central argument rests on the same democratic argument that motivates the SNP and its growing support-base.

    If it was your goal with this article to make a rather limp argument in favour of Scottish independence, you absolutely succeeded.

    My advice: go back to your community and prepare for indyref2.

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