Letter: former councillor calls for regional councils

Bob Watson was formerly a councillor in Aberdeenshire.
Bob Watson was formerly a councillor in Aberdeenshire.

I was interested to read, in the Fraserburgh Herald of November 14th, your columnist, Graham Smith’s idea that the Scottish public might be better served by Scottish Parliament elected representatives if much more constituencies were to be created, and that four or five MSPs be elected to each of those smaller electoral areas by adopting the single transferable voting system currently used to elect councillors.

I have to indicate that I find the suggestion unappealing. We don’t need more highly paid members of parliament. What Scotland needs is a reduction in central government, with more powers given to local authorities (councils) to bring about real and substantial benefits to local communities. We have the perfect opportunity to bring that about after a majority YES vote in the 2014 independence referendum.

Currently, Scotland has too much centralised government dispensed by Brussels, Westminster and Holyrood, allied with a marked lack of democratic representation and accountability. The political party, to which I now belong, advocates the following three tiered restructuring of government in an independent Scotland: (a) Scottish Parliament, (b) Regional Councils, (c) Burgh (local) councils.

In order for the electorate to feel any ownership of the political system they must see the effects of how they can influence the decision making process. This will only occur if the electorate have the means to influence the system at local level and see the results of their input. In that respect, Burgh/Town Councils should be re-instated with clearly defined powers, funds and assets. The current 32 unitary local authorities, of which Aberdeenshire Council is one, should be dismantled, and their powers divided between, say, 10 larger Regional Councils and each of those Regions’ Burgh/Town Councils.

Regional Councils would be responsible for raising all taxation in their respective areas, and ensure the money raised within their boundaries is used to develop the local economy and provide public services, through their own departmental structures and those of the Burgh/Town Councils. A proportional part of the taxation gathered in each Region would be allocated to the Scottish Parliament for use by that central governmental body to carry out its particular fitting responsibilities, e.g., defence, health service etc. Currently, most of local government funding, approximately two thirds, comes from the Scottish Parliament, with the remaining third raised locally through the community charge and business rates. The scenario, I have painted, would see a reversal of that practice, and ensure the bulk of money raised through taxes would be spent where gathered.

Oh, and as for Brussels…an independent Scotland’s future will be best served coming out of the European Union and joining EFTA (European Free Trade Association) along with Norway, Iceland etc.

Bob Watson,

Chairman, North East of Scotland Branch,

Scottish Democratic Alliance.