September 8, 2020
Enshrining local government
With the very fundamentals of democracy around the world coming under threat as never before, it’s self-evident that nothing should be taken for granted. What would have been inconceivable behaviour for a mature western democracy just a few short years ago has become the new norm. And once the fundamentals of strong, healthy democratic behaviour are lost, it becomes much harder to rediscover them. Which is why Andy Wightman’s Bill to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government into domestic law is so important. If nothing else as a backstop against the over-centralisation of power. Consultation ends next week.
Extract from Policy Memorandum for the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill
The member’s view is that over the past century the status, powers and freedoms of local government have been slowly eroded and marginalised. Governments of all persuasions have tended to concentrate more executive and fiscal power to the centre. At the same time, whole spheres of local governance (such as Scotland’s former 196 town councils) have been eliminated.
Over the 20 years since the Scottish Parliament was established, local democracy has been neglected and Scottish Ministers have assumed greater influence over local government affairs by exerting control over local tax rates and mandating specific policy outcomes in relation to the statutory powers of local government. That this has often been facilitated by local government itself does not in any way affect the ongoing erosion of local autonomy.
This document relates to the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (SP Bill 70) as introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 5 May 2020 3 9. The European Charter of Local Self-Government was designed to provide a guarantee of minimum constitutional safeguards for the status of local government across member states of the Council of Europe. As an international treaty, however, it can only have full effect in law once it is incorporated into domestic law, which is what this Bill is designed to do.