Three quarters of Scots 'don't know' who leads their local council, poll by Gordon Brown's think-tank reveals

Directly elected leaders of councils in Scotland could solve the problem of apathy and ignorance around local government issues, the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown’s think-tank has suggested.

The suggestion comes as a poll, which interviewed 1,098 Scots and was commissioned by think-tank Our Scottish Future, found three-quarters (75 per cent) of Scots did not feel confident they could say who leads their local councils.

With Scotland’s local elections set to take place in May, Mr Brown suggested the solution to this issue could come in the form of directly elected provosts or Mayors, similar to ‘metro-mayors’ such as Andy Burnham in Manchester.

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Directly elected mayors are supported by almost half of Scots, a poll suggests.

The former Labour leader said it was time to “revive our flagging local democracy”, and said the move to directly elected mayors could reverse years of local authorities being “stripped of powers”.

Currently, councillors select a leader after local authority elections in Scotland.

Mr Brown said: “Scotland led the way with devolution more than 20 years ago, when the Scottish Parliament was created by the last Labour government. But since then, our journey to devolve even further downwards has stopped.

"Indeed, the Scottish Government has put it into reverse, taking a highly centralizing approach. Not only have local authorities been drained of the resources they need, but also stripped of powers.”

The poll also indicated broad support for such a plan, with 45 per cent stating they would like to elect their local leaders and 11 per cent stating they “strongly” supported the idea.

Such a move could see areas around big cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh led by individuals, similar to the situation in Manchester, Liverpool, and Sheffield.

The think-tank also suggested local leaders for more distinct rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands and the Borders.

Mr Brown said: “Local democracy is back in vogue everywhere round the world and Scotland should be in the vanguard, not lagging behind. Our poll today shows that Scots are ahead of their government on this.

"Devolution cannot stop in Edinburgh – it is time to give our great Scottish cities and regions the power and control they need too.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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