Church of Scotland backs calls for revolution of democratic centralisation

By agency reporter
16 Aug 2014

The Church of Scotland has backed calls from a Convention of Scottish Local Authorities report which states a radical overhaul of the democratic system is required to overturn 50 years of centralisation.

The report, from the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, has laid out new proposals to re-build Scottish democracy, whatever the independence referendum decides.

Convener of the Church and Society Council, the Reverend Sally Foster Fulton, said: "This is a timely and insightful report. Whether Scotland votes 'yes' or 'no' on September 18, we remain at our best when we are an interdependent society.

"Human beings are never independent. Supporting and strengthening ways in which citizens can participate in decision making at a local level, encouraging engagement and social investment in issues that concern neighbourhoods and creating spaces for the voices of the people to be listened to are intrinsic in a society that works for everyone, especially those who find themselves on the margins."

The Church of Scotland, in its submission to the commission, argues the local structure of the Church, where individual Kirk Sessions determine most day to day decisions about church governance locally, provide a traditional model of decision making that has been lost in secular government.

The report calls for the re-empowerment of communities across Scotland. It challenges the technocratic centralisation that has led to services, such as police, fire and health, being largely controlled by national government and a system local government finance in which less than 20 per cent of revenues are determined locally.

This, the report claims, has led to Scotland becoming the most centralised country in Europe, while inequalities have grown.
Sally Foster Fulton said: "Kirk Sessions are the grassroots of local democracy in the church but their equivalent in the secular government, community councils have very little power or authority to take decisions. At a time when decisions relating to national democracy have been paramount it is essential to remember that the roots of democracy are local and that national democracy is not likely to flourish where it does not have strong local expression. We believe that secure local government, at the level of the parish or community should be strengthened to support and enhance democratic government in Scotland."

The Church of Scotland has also been active in calling for participatory budgeting to give local people a real share in important decisions about public spending.

[Ekk/4]

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