Why does local matter? It matters because experience has shown that it is the only truly effective way of getting things done.
However, there has been remarkably little consideration of what this should mean for Scotland’s local services and for local accountability.
Some might think that odd. Scotland’s constitutional future is important, but for people in Scotland the real difference will not be felt in the internal workings of Holyrood or Westminster. The debate must therefore be about improving lives in local communities, not simply repositioning governments nationally.
I believe that we have a duty in Scotland to turn that situation around. In fact, I believe that local matters so much that I took the unprecedented step of establishing Scotland’s first Commission to report on how best to put local people at the heart of Scotland’s future.
It brought together local government, wider civic Scotland, and specific expertise with a common resolve to understand why local services and local accountability matter, and set a course that will put stronger local democracy at the heart of Scotland’s future.
In fact, issues of local democracy are at the heart of the broader debate about the type of country we want to live in, the balance we strike between citizen, community and government, and how we manage local diversity, choice and variation. I am encouraged that these questions also matter deeply to people across Scotland, and that there is a growing appetite to take the constitutional debate into this kind of new territory.
However, we have more to do to expose our thinking to others who have an interest in Scotland’s democracy, and test the case for the principles it sets out.
I hope that you will work with us on that task and help make Scotland a more democratic place.
Councillor David O’Neill
Chair of the Commission and President of COSLA 2012-2017