Letters: Kill off quango and give the public a say on big projects
Councillor Jason Rust is right to complain about being gagged by the rules concerning councillors making representations to the planning committee on behalf of their constituents (News, August 24).
The root of the problem is that when the Standards Commission Scotland drew up its code of conduct for councillors, it either ignored or forgot that the role of councillors is a political one.
So the code of conduct is obsessed with ensuring that councillors act quasi-judicially when taking planning decisions, but ignores the fact that the councillors are politicians elected to represent the views of their constituents.
When the city council last revised its standing orders in 2010, it would naturally have taken the Standard Commission’s code of conduct into account.
Of course, this farce is just part of a wider phenomenon, where politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers try to micromanage every aspect of everything, quite oblivious to how their rules will work out in the real world.
The solution to the issue raised by Cllr Rust is not to revise the code of conduct, but to abolish the Standards Commission Scotland, which is after all just another quango.
Instead, let us have local referenda on major decisions (for example the trams project) and a power of recall for when we are dissatisfied with the performance of our local councillors.
Otto Inglis, Inveralmond Grove, Edinburgh
Let chains bid for supermarket spot
Not only will Sainsbury’s new shop in Portobello bring increased pressure on the local independent traders, but it heralds the sad demise of quality hardware store Woodwares.
I agree with popular sentiment that we need only one chain supermarket in Portobello. But why should it by default be Scotmid? Shopping there is rarely a pleasure, with poorly stocked shelves and unstaffed checkouts.
Surely a fairer solution would be for the council to offer a single supermarket licence lasting a set period of time. The big chains could all go in for the tender, with the best one picked by the council.
Tom Martin, Joppa Grove, Edinburgh
Bid is no way to run a railroad
I AM concerned about the proposed takeover by First of the West Coast Main Line franchise.
What is most worrying is the whole ethos of the privatised railway, which seems to be a plaything for private industry.
The recent East Coast Main Line fiasco where the successful bidder for the franchise could not deliver should have been a wake-up call for the government. If the West Coast goes the same way, which Sir Richard Branson with all his experience thinks it will, then I suspect that the way railways are organised in the UK will have to be re-examined.
I don’t seek a return to the old BR with all its faults, but a system run for private profit where one group of companies owns the trains, other companies run them on tracks controlled by yet another organisation all within the purview of government seems a nonsense.
There must be a better way and, I must add, one where trains and buses are not required to be in competition with each other but form part of a sensible, integrated approach to public transport.
Barry Turner, Carberry Close, Musselburgh
Ties that bind not worth breaking
Colin Smail’s letter (August 25) ignores the fact that members of the Commonwealth who came to our aid during the war did not treat us as belonging to separate nations within the UK.
His claim Scotland was “just a region in the UK” must mean England, Wales and Northern Ireland were also just regions.
He may be unaware that, prior to the establishment of the Scottish Government, St Andrews House in Edinburgh was occupied by Scottish departments responsible for agriculture, health and home affairs, quite separate from, and not answerable to, departments in England. Moreover, Edinburgh was home to the Inland Revenue offices of the Comptroller of Stamps & Taxes and the Estate Duty Office, both of which operated in co-operation with, but independently of England.
Scots should remember the ties binding the UK are not worth breaking to satisfy the whims of separatists.
Donald Jack, Summerside Place, Leith
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