PLEASE allow me to praise The National for its recent groundbreaking and extremely informative series of articles on the composition and job-sharing profiles of Scotland’s councillors.

We are a less glamorous but crucially important element of the Scottish body politic, and as Councillor Liz Kraft has articulately outlined, councillors working for parliamentarians can often turn around constituent enquiries faster than caseworkers who have no civic connection.

I can also testify to the importance of councillors bringing wide-ranging working experience to enhance debates in the chamber. For example, as an addictions support worker for nearly two decades I have spoken with authority on both the remit of the Drug and Alcohol Partnership in Renfrewshire and the challenges facing social care workers on the front line.

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This might lead some to conclude that I am an advocate of the civic status quo, but I am not. Cosla is entirely right to campaign for a real living wage for Scottish councillors so that the basic rate is around £25k. This is crucial if we are to increase the pool of potential local councillors, encourage a more diverse range of faces coming forward, and most necessary of all to allow for the long-overdue professionalisation of civic politics so that our constituents can benefit from full-time representation.

My employers have always been very civic, friendly and supportive to me, but I have known of at least three councillors whose employers were so uncooperative that they stood down due to the stress of having divided loyalties.

Cllr Andy Doig (Independent)
Renfrewshire Council

UNDERSTANDING the source of information allows the reader to examine the published material and view it with the skepticism or plaudits that maybe appropriate.

It was therefore with a little disappointment that I read the article on December 29 in which Allison Payne, policy director of Reform Scotland, was urging Anas Sarwar to pick up its proposal to directly elect city and/or town mayors and run with it. Reform Scotland states that current engagement with Cosla isn’t working. Why? What is the cause of the problem?

Reform Scotland seems to want our devolved Holyrood parliament to pass down either to an elected mayor or to local councils. Whilst the “think-tank” states that it is non-political and non-partisan, this should be compared to the Wikipedia article advising that it is led by people with links to the Conservative and Unionist Party.

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Reform Scotland produced the 2012 “Devo-Max” report which was picked up by Gordon Brown, ex-Labour Party PM, who tried to sell it to Scotland as opposed to independence.

The Vow and its failure to materialise, along with the abject failure of Brexit and the recent debacle during the Covid pandemic poorly managed by of Johnson, Hancock, Jenrick, Frost, Cummings, Jack and Ross – not to forget Mone, and there are others – have brought us to where we are now.

So why would we believe that concentrating power with mayors would deliver what the people of Scotland want, notably a wealthier, fairer, healthier Scotland?

In case readers have forgotten, writer Peter Bletchley and director Steven Spielberg made a wee drop of money from the dichotomy that faces a mayor. In their fictitious account of the small seaside town of Amity of New England, USA, the mayor overruled the police department to continue to allow people come to the town’s beach and complete the prime directive, to spend money, rather than shut down due to a great white shark stalking easy pickings.

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Mayors would stand for re-election every five years, probably at the same time as the council election cycle, as it will save money, and we can see the “yo-yoing” of the mayoral election competition. Remember Truss vs Sunak in the summer of 2022? Please don’t let us head down that cul-de-sac.

If Cosla isn’t working, let’s fix it. Don’t copy a discredited system to solve a problem that has yet to be defined in detail.

Alistair Ballantyne
Birkhill, Angus

WHAT a mixture of thoughts about the Reform Scotland report. Yes, our Scottish Government and our ministers need to learn to listen harder. Not just to the leaders of local authorities but to citizens as well. They also need to reply to mail from individual citizens. But the absurdity of proposing the introduction of the office of “mayor” to civic Scotland takes the biscuit.

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Yes, there is a severe democratic deficit in our country. However it will not be sorted by importing a scheme of providing a platform for big egos to pursue vanity projects. We need REAL DEMOCRACY, where decisions and determining priorities are made in communities. We need a significant cascading of powers and responsibilities from Holyrood to communities. There is a term that covers this concept – subsidiarity.

The authors of this report seem to know little of local democracy in Europe in general and Nordic countries in particular. Have they not read Lesley Riddoch’s Blossom?

Willie Oswald

REFORM Scotland should surely know that the convener of the City of Edinburgh local authority is the Lord Provost, not the Lord Mayor! The proposal for elected mayors in Scotland is ignorant and insulting to our history and culture. But is it simply ignorance? I suspect not, and that such a change is proposed to further blur the difference between the countries of Scotland and England and advance their project towards a homogenous “country” of Britain.

It needs to be fervently resisted, and I might say not printed in The National without its inappropriate nature carrying some editorial comment.

Ken Gow