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DEWAR HINTS AT PR FOR SCOTTISH COUNCILS

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Scottish secretary Donald Dewar has hinted at his support for proportional representation replacing the first-past-...
Scottish secretary Donald Dewar has hinted at his support for proportional representation replacing the first-past-the-post system for local government elections in Scotland.

In an interview with The Herald (p1) he said that next year's local elections could be the last hurrah for the present system, but any new system would be a matter for the Scottish parliament.

'We are looking at the possibility of changing the voting systems - that is an area where this government has a particularly brave record with PR in the Scottish parliament. A strong case can be made - for PR in local government.'

He cited the work of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish parliament, which is now working on what he called a 'shortlist of runners' including PR and other issues crucial to the style of future local government.

But he added that it was important to recognise the scale in any reform, he said. Local councillors had to be local and changes to the voting system might strain that concept.

He added: 'There is a mood for change in local government generally and I think many people in local government in Scotland are beginning to look very positively at change. My own party is also taking parallel steps to bring a good deal better order to the selection of candidates.'

Mr Dewar also said that Labour would press ahead with wiping out council corruption. 'There can be no question of short circuits or proceeding on the basis of rumour or innuendo,' he said, hinting that Labour would not drop its Glasgow City Council inquiry.

These comments come as the Scottish Office launches a campagin called Democratising Scotland which aims to bring government closer to the people (Herald, p6).

It will aim to give greater representation on public bodies to those currently excluded from the mainstream of Scottish life.

Mr Dewar said that certain sectors such as housing needed to be democritised with a better return on public resources involving private capital, new providers, new partnerships and building on the success of community housing associations.

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