Norway’s example

All the many excellent arguments put forward in Brian Wilson’s article (Perspective, 31 July) concerning the need for more “local powers” apply with even greater force to the situation between Scotland and Westminster.

London is like a city state, drawing in money, power and people from the rest of the UK, and acting in the interests of London alone. Any influence, never mind self-determination, is utterly ruled out.

Unfortunately, devolved power from an over-centralised government repeats this pattern. Instead of Scotland raising its own taxes Westminster sends back about half of the money as a direct grant to the Scottish Government with rules about how it may be spent.

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Earlier actions such as the abolition of burghs, rates and so on mean that local authorities are in the same situation – their tax-raising powers have been removed, decisions are taken centrally and similar constraints are put on them as on the Scottish Government.

This all stems from inadequate constitutional arrangements put in place by UK governments over the years, not the fault of a constricted devolved chamber.

The situation on Norway which has much the same geography as the Western Highlands and Islands is very different. Their fjord sides are well populated and productive communities partly because they are not “isolated”, since they have good infrastructure – road-equivalent ferry tariffs, bridges, tunnels etc – but mainly because the land ownership arrangements are democratic.

Our system means that a tiny number of people own 60 per cent of Scotland’s land.

The only way to improve things is to have a government which is sufficently local, as in Scotland, and sufficiently democratic to continue to 
devolve powers further – as is done on most other democratic countries.

In an independent country it is up to the people to ensure that the government helps all communities to revive and flourish.

Susan FG Forde

Scotlandwell, Kinross-shire