Every council in Scotland should have directly elected mayor, says think tank

Every council in Scotland should be headed by a directly elected mayor who would have regular meetings with the First Minister, a think tank has said.

Reform Scotland said the move would provide “strong and effective leadership”, while acting as a powerful force in driving economic development and progress.

It comes after a major report by former prime minister Gordon Brown said “consideration should be given” to directly elected mayors in Scotland.

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Alison Payne, Reform Scotland’s research director, called on Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to ensure such a policy is included in its next Holyrood election manifesto.

A recent report by Gordon Brown said “consideration should be given” to directly elected mayors in Scotland.A recent report by Gordon Brown said “consideration should be given” to directly elected mayors in Scotland.
A recent report by Gordon Brown said “consideration should be given” to directly elected mayors in Scotland.

She said “Scotland is far too centralised and needs to see a shift in power from Holyrood to local authorities.

"Although councils run many of the services that are most important to our everyday lives, few of us know who is in charge and who we should be holding accountable. Scotland is unusual internationally in the weakness of its local authorities.

“Gordon Brown’s intervention is the latest in a long list, but we need to start seeing action rather than simply words. In this case, it should start with Anas Sarwar confirming that Scottish Labour will campaign at the next Scottish Parliament election on a pledge to introduce them.”

Reform Scotland said elected mayors would allow for the “voices and experiences of Scotland’s local areas to be heard nationally”. In a new paper, it argues for a “shift away from central command and control” in Scotland, calling for a “new and better balance of powers between Holyrood and local government”.

It said council leaders can currently be viewed “as a lower-level politician than a backbench MSP, despite occupying a prestigious role running a city”, adding: “Backbench MSPs have higher salaries than the council leaders who run Scotland’s councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

Elected mayors would be a “clear figurehead” for their local area, Reform Scotland said, arguing the introduction of such leaders in places like London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester had not only given these areas a greater voice but had also stimulated “interest in and awareness of local government”.

The think tank said the new mayors should “be directly elected by the public across the whole council area, giving them a strong, personal democratic mandate”. Mayoral elections could take place at the same time as council elections, while giving voters the choice would mean the successful candidate has “direct accountability to the local population rather than just to party colleagues and voters in a single ward”.

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The report added: “The mayor would play a bigger role in terms of representing the area at Holyrood, Westminster and internationally. They would be the people’s representative, rather than a party’s representative to the people.”

Reform Scotland suggested a quarterly public meeting should be held between the First Minister and council mayors.

Elsewhere, it called for the full devolution of council tax and business rates to local authorities, in addition to offering them the ability to create and set new local taxes. "Localism needs to be a priority for 2023,” the think tank said.



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