Wheatley at 50 – plus ça change?

By Bill Howat | 04 September 2019

In the first sentence of his report published September 1969(1), Lord Wheatley, former Solicitor General for Scotland and Lord Advocate, Labour Party member of Parliament for Edinburgh East 1947-1954 stated: ‘Something is seriously wrong with local government in Scotland. It is not that local authorities have broken down, or that services have stopped functioning. The trouble is not so obvious as that. It is that the local government system as a whole is not working properly – it is not doing the job that it ought to be doing.’

If you think this still resonates 50 years, two reorganisations and a Scottish Parliament later, then consider this further quote: ‘Looked at as part of the machinery for running the country, local government is less significant than it ought to be. It lacks the ability to speak with a strong and united voice. Local authorities have come to accept, and even rely on, a large measure of direction and control from the central Government. The electorate are aware of this. They are increasingly sceptical whether local government really means Government. The question is being asked – and it is a serious question – whether, as an institution, local government is worthwhile maintaining at all.’

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Local democracy Scotland Reorganisation