Former Education Secretary Michael Russell calls for break-up of councils

Written by Tom Freeman on 1 February 2016 in News

"Radical change" likely after independence referendum, former SNP minister Michael Russell will say in his inaugural lecture at the University of Glasgow

Scotland’s local authorities should be broken up into smaller, more community-based units, according to former education secretary Michael Russell.

In his inaugural lecture as Professor in Scottish Culture and Governance at the University of Glasgow tonight, Russell will argue in some areas local government has “lost contact” with those it is meant to serve”.

Education budgets, for example, should be controlled by individual schools, he will say, while community councils should be given more power.


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“City regions may be appropriate levels of subsidiarity for some things, though a strengthening of community councils in cities would be essential if the current structure was maintained.

“In most of Scotland, however, a new dispensation is required with the division of the existing authorities into much smaller units, devolving down budgetary control to schools, transferring social care to the new integrated services (which need greater local input too, and certainly responsive local management) and focusing on the delivering of the key remaining local services through localised staff.

“Perhaps merging the existing network of largely powerless community councils with these smaller local councils would produce a new dynamism,” he is expected to say.

Research indicates political engagement has risen in Scotland since the referendum on independence, while levels of dissatisfaction with democratic structures remain, Russell will argue.

“In a country with a high level of political interest (especially amongst young people) and yet with a low level of satisfaction with democracy, there is the likelihood of either disenchantment or radical change,” he will warn.

Other proposals expected to feature in the lecture include an overhaul of the Scottish Parliament’s committee system with conveners elected by parliament, and the abolition of the current public appointments system in favour of a two-tier approach involving a national panel.

Russell, an alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, was given the role as a part-time professor at the University of Glasgow in May last year.

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