Local government

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I FULLY empathise with and share the frustration and despair that Lesley Riddoch (Perspective, 26 November) articulates in her commentary on the issue of local government in Scotland.

Yes indeed, the Fennoscandian model shows how ownership, both metaphorically and literally, results in a stronger and more effective form of local government than we presently have in Scotland.

Instead of moving toward such, under the SNP we are in potent danger of moving away from it.

My despair and frustration stems from more than 20 years of trying to engage with the SNP in the issue, initially in a series of meetings and illustrated talks to SNP branches and public meetings, on a study tour of western 
Norway I made in 1984 with Angus McHattie of the Scottish Crofters’ Union and then in participation in the Scottish Land Commission, set up by Alex Salmond and whose report was accepted by the SNP in 1997.

The former indicated clearly the vastly greater degree of financial and executive control available at the lowest level of political structure in general, especially in rural Norway compared with rural Scotland, and how this integrated and interacted with an extensive participatory private land tenure system, combining outright private ownership of inbye land and forest, with communal management of upland grazings.

The implications were accepted enthusiastically by most audiences and indeed by several senior SNP politicians now in government.

Likewise the main findings in respect of the Scottish Land Commission’s recommendations on the linked issues of land tenure and local government empowerment.

So far so good, but along came the SNP government and a gradual distancing by the party’s hierarchy from its erstwhile radical local government and land reform agenda, to the point of policy reneging.

The SNP sank to the level of accepting Labour’s ineffectual land reform package of 2003 and seems determined on a course of keeping its head under water.

Sadly, my despair and frustration also applies to would-be reformers such as Lesley Riddoch who seem to have become fixated with the “tribal-kibbutzim” community buy-out approach to land reform.

They have failed to apply the primary lessons to be gleaned from our Scandinavian neighbours, our North American cousins and our current European partners, and above all else have failed to engage with vital, core issues of the collection of land rental value as the basis of public revenue.

Ron Greer

Blair Atholl


Like so many people who proffer solutions to address voter apathy, Lesley Riddoch misses the point.

The reason the majority of the electorate are cynical about politicians and so do not vote for any of them is because politicians do not listen to what the voters want and one need look no further than the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments for evidence of this.

Councils, large or small, will only work and attract votes when those standing for election are genuinely committed to representing the views of those who voted for them and are not under the thumb of party whips, or under the arrogant illusion that they know better than the electorate.

Lovina Roe

Glasgow Road