Scots secretary calls for more devolution
Mundell warns of Northern Powerhouse threat to Scots cities
Scottish Secretary David Mundell will today call for more devolution of powers within Scotland by urging Holyrood to follow the Westminster government’s lead.
He believes local authorities should be handed more control over issues such as health, transport and policing, but will accuse the Scottish government of doing the opposite by pursuing a centralising agenda.
He will point to Finance Secretary John Swinney’s Budget plans announced last week to cut council budgets and to the government’s decision to scrap local police authorities in favour of one Scotland-wide force.
Mr Mundell says in comments published today that Smith Commission offered the opportunity devolve more powers to local communities. He claims the SNP has pulled back from this.
He writes: “Unfortunately, the Scottish Government does not seem to share this enthusiasm for giving away power. Quite the opposite. As we saw in last week’s Scottish Budget, local government seems to be viewed as a convenient cash cow, an easy way of avoiding unpopular decisions while making others, literally, pay the price.
“The experience of Police Scotland has shown very graphically that bigger is not always better. Bute House does not always know best.
“I believe the centralising tendency displayed by the Scottish Government is fighting against the tide of progress.”
Mr Mundell points to the northern English cities which form Chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse and in a speech in Glasgow he will warn that Scotland’s big cities will fail to keep pace without the ability to run their affairs in the same way.
“The Northern Powerhouse is breaking new ground. And now that the Midlands Engine is gaining pace, with plans for a similar transfer of power to the Greater Birmingham area, as well as plans afoot in urban Yorkshire, suburban Hampshire and even rural Cornwall, the direction of travel for the rest of the UK is becoming crystal clear.
“There is now real risk that Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, and indeed the towns and counties of Scotland as a whole will be left behind – stuck in a 1990s time-warp of centralised, Holyrood-dominance.”
A statement issued by Mr Swinney’s office said: “David Mundell has just spent months opposing amendments to the Scotland Bill, refusing Scotland job-creating powers, so his calls now have absolutely no credibility.
“The Scottish Government’s approach is one of partnership with local government – it is an approach that varies substantially from that taken in some other parts of the UK and is based on a shared vision of strengthened community planning, engagement and empowerment.”