Services responding to people
The current Scottish Government has centralised the life out of Scotland. Decisions on council spending, enterprise investment, hospital building projects, police and fire services are now all taken at the centre of government.
The problems in Police Scotland have set that out in the starkest of fashions. Local accountability was removed from local areas. Local services were closed down. Highly skilled support staff were replaced by uniformed officers on the diktat of Edinburgh ministers. And in the case of control rooms, the consequences have caused real harm.
Scottish Liberal Democrats want the next five years to reverse the centralisation of Scotland. Liberal Democrats in the next Scottish Parliament will champion a liberating agenda to roll back the top-down, target-driven, one-size-fits-all culture that distorts our public services. We will:
- Give back to councils the powers to set local domestic and business taxation, and remove the financial penalties used by the present government to exert control. This will give local councils control of more than 50 per cent of their revenues and give them a real stake in economic progress;
- Give a full power of general competence to local authorities to allow them to meet the needs of the people they serve;
- Allow local communities to establish a burgh council to serve their area, established by a charter defining its functions. Such new local community-focused authorities would empower communities and give a true local focus to service delivery and the use of public land and assets;
- Give power to public sector workers across Scotland to use their professional skills to the most, and to lead local services;
- Appoint a Minister for Public Workforce Empowerment, working with a taskforce of frontline professionals, charged to lead a drive for the empowerment of public sector workers, changing the National Performance Framework to make sure it enables empowerment across government;
- Expand the role of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee to allow it to consider how the pressure to achieve top-down targets may distort the service provided to the public by specific groups of public sector workers, for example police officers, social workers and health professionals;
- Build on our case for a diverse, federal UK as the alternative to divisive nationalism – starting with a citizen led British Constitutional Convention, including reform to the unelected House of Lords;
- Bring back democracy into Police Scotland by making sure local policing plans have to be approved by locally elected people; and removing the sole right of ministers to appoint the Scottish Police Authority.