Scotland’s council elections must not be turned into grandiose national opinion polls – Scotsman comment


Local council elections should be decided on the issues at stake, not national politics (Picture: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)

So, the central message from Scotland’s First Minister is that the local elections are about national UK politics. Or, in other words, they are not about what they are supposed to be about.

It is only a bus, but the SNP party political broadcast for the council elections had a similar focus: “a hard Brexit Scotland didn’t vote for”, the Universal Credit cut, the National Insurance rise, and, of course, Partygate.

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The problem with all this is it that Conservative councillors had about as much influence on Brexit as an ordinary citizen. And voting for an SNP councillor will not lead to a rise in national benefits or cuts in national taxes.

It is inevitable the result will be seen as a verdict on Boris Johnson. If the Conservatives do badly across the UK, the party may decide it’s time for him to go. If they do relatively well, the pressure on him will ease.

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And it is also true that Johnson shares the blame for the SNP’s decision to focus on him. If he had done the decent thing and resigned – after becoming the first Prime Minister in history to have been found to have broken the law while in office – local issues like education, transport and social care would have had a better chance of being decisive to the outcome of the elections.

That they are being downplayed because of the justified outrage over Johnson’s lawbreaking is unfair to the decent, hard-working Conservative councillors who may lose their seats because of him.

And, while other parties may not be too worried about that, it is also damaging for local democracy as a whole.

Turning council elections into grandiose national opinion polls means administrations in charge of vast budgets are not being properly held to account. And opposition councillors are being hampered in their efforts to present alternative visions.

The Scotsman will continue its efforts to promote debate of the real issues at stake in these elections. Once again, we extend an invitation to politicians to do the same.

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