In a speech to the COSLA conference today, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has warned councillors that the SNP are attempting to stamp out local opposition by stripping local authorities of significant powers.
Mr Rennie warned that the amount of power that the Scottish Government has seized from councils is on a par with what has been transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.
Mr Rennie said:
“As a liberal I believe that power is best exercised when it is shared. Shared in the nations, regions and communities. Every illiberal government in the world would rather their ministers were able to get on with things without interference, challenge or scrutiny from anyone else.
“They want to make their mistakes in private; squander our money without challenge; neglect the difficult issues with impunity.
Councils came together in the 1980's to help form the Constitutional Convention to challenge the Thatcher Government and draw up plans for devolution.
“Our country forged the Scottish Parliament so that decisions that are best made in Scotland are made here.
“It was not forged so that decisions that are best made in Inverness, Dundee or Ayr are made in Edinburgh too. That was not the mandate from the 1997 referendum. The importance of local government was declared in 1995 by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, in Scotland’s Parliament, Scotland’s Right.
“Yet under this Scottish Government the transfer of powers from your communities to the Scottish Government are just as significant as the powers transferred from Westminster to Edinburgh. The SNP are right. There is a power grab but they are responsible for it and our local councils are the victims.
“The transfer of power from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament was authorised through a referendum so where is the similar mandate for the transfer of powers from your community? Some vague and meaningless phrases on page 32 of a manifesto are simply no justification for the large scale stripping of powers.”