Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Nats attack local democracy again

I see that the Scottish Government has called in an application by Asda to build a new supermarket in Inverness. This was backed overwhelmingly by councillors in Inverness, although two of my Lib Dem colleagues opposed the plan.

This follows on from the calling in of the Trump golf and housing development and the SNP's proposals for a nationally-set rate of income tax to fund local council spending, thereby removing all local accountability for spending decisions.

The conclusion has to be that for the SNP government, local democracy is at best an inconvenient nuisance. At worst, it is something to be removed entirely.


Stephen B said...

How is a public inquiry undemocratic?

Actually, this kind of action makes me wonder whether Scotland is actually small enough that the Government (I see you have adopted Alex's terminology...)can act as the 'upper chamber' to local authorities. Obviously the ability to act in this way is in the planning legislation and in other relationships between local and national government but it strikes me that it has rarely been this obvious before. It then seems that if this is the case, then it's an arrangement that could do with some greater degree of formalizing to avoid the confusion and dismay that now occurs (or at least the predictable cries of Lib Dem faux outrage!)

On the subject of local finance and accountability, you should remember that the Tories also thought that the poll tax would ensure accountability for local spending decisions. Instead it proved to be the ideal opportunity for councils to impose large bills and get the government to carry the can over it. I would imagine that the SNP are similarly worried that the same would happen to them.

Bernard Salmon said...

Holding a public inquiry means that the decision is ultimately taken by the Scottish Exec/Government, rather than by people who are accountable locally. That to me is a negation of local democracy.
In my view, planning applications should only be called in if there is some conceivable national interest involved. With the best will in the world, it's difficult to see how the issue of whether Inverness should have another supermarket falls into that category. The Nats are playing a very dangerous game if they're going to intervene every time there's some element of controversy locally. They should just butt out.

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