SNP say “transformative” plans for local elections will survive #ScotRef polarisation

With Scottish Conservatives already campaigning on anti-referendum platform, SNP say participatory budget plans will be implemented

SUSAN AITKEN, the SNP’s local government convener has pledged that the party’s “transformative” plans to introduce participatory budgeting at a local level will survive amid the constitutional crisis.

The SNP spring conference in Aberdeen voted today (18 March) for SNP councillors to implement participatory budgeting in any councils they win control over during the May local elections.

However, there are fears local election plans could be swallowed up by the constitutional debate, as the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour are already basing their campaigns around a ‘no second referendum message’.

Speaking at an Electoral Reform Society Scotland (ERSS) fringe, Aitken promised that SNP councils would enact “transformative” policies including participatory budgeting to democratise Scottish local government.

Asked whether the participatory budgeting policy, which would see a minimum of one per cent of council budgets go into participatory budgets that would allow local residents to decide how it is spent, could be disrupted by the anti-independence campaigns in the aftermath of Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of a Scottish Parliament debate to seek legal permission for an independence referendum, Aitken conceded that pressure would exist, but that it could be overcome.

She said: “We have to make sure we have really strong manifestos, so that if we are lucky enough to be elected we make sure we have the mandate to make changes.

“The excuse of that’s not how we do things won’t stand.

Susan Aitken addressing an ERSS fringe meeting at the SNP conference

“There will be a bit of polarisation. But people are still talking about local issues, and there’s a sense of a lack of transparency and detachment in too many local authorities today. The election will be about that as well.”

Moving the resolution in the main conference hall, Chris McEleny said: “From Peebles to Peterhead, from Oban to Dunbar there is a burning desire for communities to have a far bigger say in how their communities  work in relation to their councils.

“Conference in May I want the SNP to win control of council’s across Scotland so that we can then give that power away – to the communities across this country that we are elected to serve.

“We all agree that decisions about the future of Scotland are better made in Scotland by the people that live and work here. Similarly decisions about local communities across the country will be better decisions if more autonomy is given to people to make those decisions.

“Empowering local communities to have more control of local resources, more control of local decisions and ownership of their own facilities will be the biggest transformation to the political environment in generations.”

The vote also committed SNP councillors to work in the spirit of the Community Empowerment Act to increase the stock of land and buildings owned by local authorities, among other measures.

Speaking to the fringe meeting ERSS director Willie Sullivan said: “We are big supporters of representative democracy, but we think it’s in trouble. It’s at risk of populist shocks.

“We need a honeycomb of lots of smaller democratic spaces.”

Leticia Valle Garcia, a participant in European municipal movements, told the meeting about how ideas of radical participation had transformed public space in some European cities.

Pictures courtesy of Ianan, CommonSpace

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