Scottish Government’s autumn ‘relaunch’ to see biggest shake-up of local councils in decades

Scottish Government’s autumn ‘relaunch’ to see biggest shake-up of local councils in decades
The National, by Andrew Learmonth


New thinking on economic growth, a shake-up of local councils, and new proposals on air pollution and climate change, are supposedly all being considered as part of Nicola Sturgeon’s planned autumn relaunch for the Scottish Government.


Details of the policies were leaked to a newspaper yesterday, with SNP sources saying they would form part of a radical renewal to reinvigorate the party and convince voters that they’re “getting on with the day job”.


The Scottish Tories dismissed the proposals, claiming there was nothing that hadn’t already been announced.


The relaunch policies are set to be revealed by the SNP leader when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes in September.


According to the report, ministers are keen to stop money being lost in the black hole of “moribund” local government finance. Instead they propose giving more power and money to community councils or to small groups of local councillors, and possibly even directly ringfencing money for communities.


The paper says the government do no want to “axe or merge councils but want to find ways of stripping power and control over money from local authorities and giving them to local communities.”


Councils will be expected to devolve power to “the lowest level possible.”


Reportedly one other idea being considered is for functions such as road building and maintenance to be handed to a nationwide body such as Transport Scotland.


On climate change ministers are looking at new incentives to encourage better insulation and energy use in homes and moves to curb heavily polluting diesel vehicles in cities, though congestion charging is not being considered.


On welfare, given the new powers Holyrood has here, the government are keen to put forward “eye-catching” proposals, including incentives to get women back to work after having children and ways to ease in-work poverty.


On the economy, finance minister Keith Brown is looking at ways to boost exports and improve productivity and revive the oil and gas sector.


When the First Minister announced her decision to delay asking Whitehall for a section 30 order to hold a second referendum Scottish independence last month, she told MSPs: “Of course any government after ten years needs to take stock and to refresh. Over this summer, as we prepare our next programme for government and our budget for the year ahead, that is exactly what we will do.


“We will set out afresh our vision for the country that we lead, together with the creative, imaginative, bold and radical policies that, as far as is possible within the current powers that are available to us, will help us to realise that bold, ambitious vision for Scotland.”


One insider told the newspaper: “We are working on a series of radical policies. There will be things there which will make people sit up and take notice. We said we would refresh things and that is what we are going to do.”


Scottish Conservative shadow economy secretary Dean Lockhart dismissed the plans: “These are ideas we’ve heard before from the SNP – there literally isn’t a new proposal in there.


“That’s not the radical relaunch bragged about by SNP insiders.


“It’s indicative of a tired government which has run out of inspiration and ideas.”


Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “A half-baked attempt at a reboot months down the line is simply too little, too late for the generation of Scots she has let down.


“Scotland needs a government that works for the many, not the few.”