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SMARTEN UP YOUR ACT, SCOTTISH MINISTER TELLS COUNCILS

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Scottish Office minister Calum MacDonald will today deliver a dramatic message to Scottish local government that Th...
Scottish Office minister Calum MacDonald will today deliver a dramatic message to Scottish local government that The Herald (p2) dubs 'Adapt or Die'.

MacDonald will warn councils that they must realise nothing will ever be the same again now that home rule is becoming a reality. In interview with The Herald he says: 'I do not believe the status quo will be adequate for the new era. Just like Westminster had had to overhaul a 19th-century constitution to make it fit for the 21st century, so local authorities have to conduct a similar institutional revolution.

'They have got to apply themselves now intellectually to this task and really shape the debate before the Scottish parliament is up and running, because, if we are still mulling over this question by the time the parliament comes along, the people elected to that will have views of their own and they will be a body to which Scotland will look to take initiative on a whole range of things.'

MancDonald is expected to announce next week the make-up of the independent commission whose task is to examine the future relationship between local government and the new Scottish parliament and executive.

MacDonald will also tell a local government conference at Edinburgh university today that the government wants councils to adopt a more strategic perspective; to lift their heads from the minutiae of service delivery and plan only the bigger picture. The Herald reveals that he uses the words 'enabling council', with its 'Nicholas Ridley' implications of a body meeting only occasionally to dole out private-sector contracts.

He will conclude that local authority's best bet lies in winning the respect of the communities they serve by smartening up their act and adapting to the new Scotland. The Herald quotes him again: 'The ultimate security (for a council) has to be the confidence it enjoys from the communities it serves.'

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