The Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy has published an interim report, setting our the findings from consultation activity and research undertaken since the onset of the project.
The Commission, set up by the President of COSLA, Councillor David O’Neill, recognised the need to restore trust, confidence and participation in Scottish democracy. The initiative is designed to be an ongoing conversation with individuals and organisations in Scotland, which looks at the shifting debate in the country over what democracy means, particularly local democracy, aiming to challenge the ‘centralist mindset’ apparent in many of our democratic institutions. The overall purpose of the Commission is to:
“Identify a route map to deliver the full benefits of a shift in power towards local democracy for people in Scotland”.
The Commission recognises that democracy today involves distant institutions which feel far removed from people’s lives and which local communities have no control over and is looking at ways in which this can be addressed, an approach which could lead to a radical overhaul of the way in which democracy operates across the country, if adopted.
The interim findings include the acknowledgement that empowering communities must involve “a radical and fundamental overhaul of how we think” and argues that there is a need to reverse the 50 year trend towards centralisation, instead creating a culture which puts communities in control.
The initial findings of the Commission are that:
- Democracy must be empowered from the bottom-up, not in the top-down way many of our institutions operate
- Strong local democracy requires there to be improved representation and participation – allowing individuals and communities to participate in decision-making
- Services and decision-making must fit local communities within a framework of rights– different communities have different needs
- Greater fiscal decentralisation is required – to enable communities to have more say over tax and spend decisions in their local area.
Having identified some of the key principles and issues, the Commission will now look at ways in which these can be achieved.
The Commission includes a range of individuals across Scotland and is not affiliated to any particular political party.
Source: Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy Local Commission April 2014