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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
MSP's LOCAL GOVERNANCE (SCOTLAND) BILL BRIEFING
Communications

 

 

 

MSP Briefing

Stage 1 Debate on the

Local Governance (Scotland) Bill

Introduction

On Wednesday 24th March the Scottish Parliament will undertake a Stage 1 debate on the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill. UNISON Scotland supports the main thrust of the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill and the move to introduce proportional representation although we have some concerns relating to the voting age.

The Electoral System for Local Government Elections

UNISON Scotland supports the proposals within the Bill relating to the introduction of the single transferable vote (STV) for local government elections as this would produce a result which more fairly represents the spectrum of opinion within the electorate. UNISON Scotland also believes that PR will improve decision making in councils, will help develop a more consensual style of politics where elected representatives truly consider the interests of the community they represent and will also help engage more people.

Ward Sizes

UNISON Scotland further supports the introduction of three or four member wards. The larger member wards will still be able to maintain the ward-councillor links, which are crucial to ensuring that individual councillors remain accountable to their local communities. If ward sizes were any larger than four members, the ward member link would be at best tenuous.

Widening Access

UNISON SCOTLAND firmly believes that all electoral systems should be fair, open and democratic and encourage participation from groups which are currently under-represented women, people with disabilities, people from ethnic minorities, lesbians and gay men and younger people.

Age Limit for Local Government Candidates

UNISON Scotland supports any move which encourages participation from young people in the electoral process and while encouraged by the move to reduce the age limit for local government candidates from 21 years to 18, UNISON Scotland believes that the age limit should be reduced even further to 16 years. UNISON Scotland believes that that this is an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way by reducing the age for voting and candidates especially as recent reports indicate that such a change may be applied to General Elections.

Young people in Scotland can marry at the age of 16, be called up to the armed forces, pay tax and National Insurance. We believe that age discrimination is not only patronising, but also serves to alienate young people from society. This can be clearly seen in the rapid and disturbing growth of young people's disengagement from the electoral and political system.

Restrictions on standing for local Government elections

UNISON Scotland warmly welcomes the move to remove the requirement for council employees to resign on nomination as a candidate. As local authorities are often the largest employers in their locality, in our view these restrictions unfairly impact on an unnecessarily large number of people who have useful local experience that would serve their constituents and communities well in elected office.

UNISON Scotland believes that there should be more extensive reform of the rules preventing serving councillors being employees of the same council. We are of the view that elected members should be able to retain their employment or seek employment when leaving office, with the same local authority they represent, with appropriate safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest arising. If private contractors working for a local authority can be councillors we can see no reason for discriminating against directly employed staff.

Remuneration for councillors

UNISON Scotland supports fairer provisions for the remuneration of councillors including access to the Local Government Pension Scheme. This should include severance payments on the same basis as applies to members of the UK and Scottish parliaments.

Conclusion

UNISON Scotland believes that the Scottish Parliament should take this opportunity to revitalise democratic accountability in Scottish local government.

For further information visit our website www.unison-scotland.org.uk

Or contact Kenny MacLaren, Information Development Officer, k.maclaren@unison.co.uk

 

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Further Information

Contacts list:

Kenny MacLaren, Information Development Officer, k.maclaren@unison.co.uk