‘No rush’ to bring in laws devolving power to local level

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Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell wants decisions on public services to be made in communities (Scottish Parliament/PA)

The Scottish Government “will not rush” to bring in new laws to devolve power to local communities, Scotland’s Communities Secretary has said.

People overwhelmingly want more say about how public services are run in their area, initial findings of a local governance review show.

More than 4,000 people are estimated to have responded to the review, jointly launched by the Scottish Government and local authority umbrella body Cosla in 2017.

The final report from the review is not due until 2021 and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said legislation would “not rush” to introduce the legislation to devolve further power to local authorities before the next Holyrood elections that year in order to “get this right”.

The current report, on responses to community decision making questions, states: “Responses describe the activity and energy of people getting involved in their communities across Scotland.

“However, the negative experiences of trying to be involved in decisions locally were more strongly and more frequently described.”

Positive experiences of local decision making included political action and protesting, making their voices heard and influencing, being directly involved and taking decisions.

Negative experiences included poor communication, tokenistic engagement, and a lack of representation.

Ms Campbell said: “A wide range of people with very different backgrounds, experiences and interests overwhelmingly responded that they want to have more say about how local public services are run in their area.

“We want to see a step-change in democracy in Scotland where decisions on public services are made in communities – where they have the biggest impact.

“Options are open as to what services are devolved, however throughout the process people have told us there will be a lot of detail to work out if we are to get this right.

“As a result we will not rush to introduce legislation in this Parliament.

“We have an exciting opportunity to shape the future of democracy so local communities can really flourish.”

Cosla president, councillor Alison Evison, said: “The initial stages of this review have made clear that local, democratic choice and control matters to people’s lives.

“There is now a need across the country to achieve improved outcomes for our communities, particularly those communities suffering persistent inequality.

“With leadership from local government and the Scottish Government, we will continue the conversation to get it right and give communities more say in decisions that impact on them.”

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