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McINTOSH COMMISSION REPORT WELCOMED ON ALL SIDES

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The Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats have welcomed the report form the McIntosh Commission into lo...
The Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats have welcomed the report form the McIntosh Commission into local government, reports The Herald (p6).

Saying it endorses many of the nationalists' submissions, Kenneth Gibson, the SNP's local government spokesman, added: 'Instead of London-inspired gimmicks like directly-elected provosts, the report recognises that a pressing reform in local government is PR for local authority elections, which would end Labour's one-party states, open up councils to democratic scrutiny and make them more accountable to their local communities.'

The Scottish Liberal Democrats' local government spokesman, Ian Smith, said his party had been calling for fair votes for some time. Welcoming the rejection of elected provosts, he said: 'We are concerned that the proposal for cabinets will result in power being centralised in the hands of the few rather than decentralised to local communities.'

One member of the commission, Alan Alexander, said the relationship between central and local government had been critical and unstable. He said: 'We are arguing here in favour of setting some ground rules. There are certain areas of activity that should be regarded as things local government should get on with, and certain areas that are for the Scottish parliament to get on with.

'I think if we had that kind of ground rule, or covenant, between the two, some of that might reduce the negative perceptions that are being fostered of local government. This could be done by resolution of the parliament.'

The Herald's editorial (p20) says it is essential that the work of the McIntosh Commission be thorough and that the political parties treat it with respect. It also says the failure of the Labour party to make a contribution to the commission set up by its own government is both remarkable and alarming.

The second consultation paper from the commission is right to say that the status quo in local government is no longer an option and that only reform will preserve democracy. The depth of distaste for local councils in some parts of Scotland is quite startling and it is clear that root-and-branch reform will be necessary, the article says.

It argues that a proper examination of the different types of council organisation which might be possible is also necessary, but it adds that whatever the format of local government it will only work if there are good councillors to run it and adequate responsibilities for them to exercise.

The article concludes: 'Career-breaks, adequate remuneration, heightened democratic accountability, and meaningful powers and duties are all valuable means of maintaining good councillors and attracting more of the same. The McIntosh Commission is doing good work, with or without the contributions of the Labour party.'

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