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Friday, 24 September 2010

The Big Event - Only 5 days to go

Our policy wrap up event is only five days ago. Come the 29 September in Edinburgh we'll be hosting a cross-party consultation event to provide ideas for our cross-party manifesto for the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election.

If you haven't signed up to attend (register/join here) here are details of the programme to wet your appetite.

Date: Wednesday 29 September
Time: 0900 - 1430
Where: Storytelling Theatre & Book Trust, Edinburgh.

WELCOME SPEECH Lesley Sutherland, Chair, CSPP 1010 – 1020 SC THEATRE

DRAGONS DEN ON SCOTLAND'S TRANSPORT CHOICES  1030 – 1130 SC THEATRE

Hosted by transport expert, Professor Iain Docherty, presenters face the ‘dragons’, debating the relative merits of extending the Edinburgh Tram, Building (or not) the new Forth Bridge or starting work on a High Speed Rail link to London and onto mainland Europe.

The Presenters  
- Extending the Tram System - Jim Harkins, Managing Director, Light Rail UK & Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group
- High Speed Rail Link - Jim Steer, Founder-Director, Greengauge 21 & Founder and Non Executive Director, Steer Davies Gleave
- Ban the new Forth Bridge - Lawrence Marshall, Chair, The Forthright Alliance

The Dragons

- Professor Jan Bebbington, Sustainable Development Commission's Vice-Chair (Scotland) & Member of external advisory group to First Group
- Mike Connolly, Head of Public Affairs, TIE Ltd
- Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor, The Scotsman
- Scott McIntosh, Senior Consultant in Light Rail, Mott MacDonald

WHOSE TOWN IS IT ANYWAY? 1030-1130 BOOK TRUST
Leading expert on retail, Leigh Sparks, is Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling. Leigh will quiz our town experts as they battle it out to illustrate innovative, effective and economical interventions to protect, grow and support our towns.  Visit our town exhibition in the SC Court area too.

Team 1 –Scott Davidson, Lead, Planning & Regeneration, Halcrow, Ian Davison Porter, Project Director, Business Improvement Districts Scotland, Mhairi Donaghy, Associate Director, EKOS.

Team 2 – Ian Lindley, Director, Planning & Economic Development, Scottish Borders Council representing The South of Scotland Alliance, Stuart Mackinnon, Public Affairs, FSB Scotland, Diane Wehrle, Marketing Director, Springboard.

HAVE DIRECT ELECTIONS GOT THE "X" FACTOR? 1300-1400 SC THEATRE

Both the Holyrood and Westminster Governments have different ideas on how democracy can be renewed and how improved accountability and transparency is delivered. Our respected panellists will put three initiatives - health boards, elected mayors and police commissioners - under the microscope to establish if further democratisation is really the answer.

Panel

- Professor John Curtice, University of Strathclyde & Deputy Director, Centre for Research into Elections & Social Trends
- Professor Richard Kerley, Professor of Management and Vice Principal (Commercialisation and Internationalisation), Queen Margaret University

Presenters


- Health Boards: Keith Geddes, Policy Director, Pagoda PR & formerly President of CoSLA and Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council
- Tom Halpin, Chief Executive, Sacro & formerly Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders Police and Head of CID Operations, Strathclyde Police
- Aidan Rave, Director, Interim Management and north of England, Pinnacle PSG and a former Deputy Mayor of Doncaster

GREEN QUESTION TIME 1300-1400 BOOK TRUST

Grant "Dimbleby" Thoms is joined by experts from business, environmental and advocacy organisations when Green Question Time comes to you live from the BIG Event Edinburgh. Questions also accepted via all the usual social networking sites. We suspect discussions will continue ‘off air’ when we throw these questions into the melting pot:
Does anyone really care about climate change?
How do we deliver our environmental commitments in an era of decreasing public expenditure?
How do we protect Scotland's natural resources in these difficult economic times? Who pays for greening the Scottish economy (selectivism vs universalism) and how do we fund our low carbon aspirations?
Can sustainable development really lead to economic recovery? What is your vision for a low carbon Scottish economy?
What should be the priorities in the energy and environment agenda for a new Scottish Parliament?
Green jobs: myth or reality? What is the value of our natural heritage to the Scottish economy?
Should the climate change agenda be immune to budgetary pressures?
Are Local Authorities doing enough to combat climate change?
Why is transport policy so disconnected from the climate change agenda?
How do we improve Scotland's poor sustainable transport infrastructure?......  

Panel

- Cllr Grant Thoms (Host).
- Rob Edwards, Environmental Journalist.
- Colin Howden, Director, Transform Scotland.
- Norman Kerr, Director, Energy Action Scotland.
- Duncan McLaren, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth

CLOSING SPEECH Ross Martin, Policy Director, CSPP 1410 – 1430 SC THEATRE

Running throughout the day...
TOWN CENTRES EXHIBITION 0930 - 1430 SC COURT
Town centre regeneration models, initiatives and services. Featuring Business Improvement Districts Scotland, Town Centres & Local High Streets Learning Network, Town Centre Regeneration Fund projects, South of Scotland Alliance and Springboard, a leading provider of automated customer counting services, delivering solutions across the entire range of customer generating environments: high streets, shopping centres, retail parks, conference, leisure and entertainment venues, transport interchanges.

“IF I WERE FIRST MINISTER...” SPEAKERS’ CORNER (0900-1000, 1130-1300) BOOK TRUST GARDEN
Forget Hyde Park – this is where it’s at! Fresh thinking on the kind of Scotland we want to live in. Have a go!

ADOPT AN INTERN – SPEED INTERVIEWING BOOTH (0900-1000, 1130-1300) SC COURT
We have 10 highly motivated graduates for you to meet.  Our aim?  To help these talented young people to network with Scotland's movers and shakers.


CAFE OPEN FOR PURCHASE OF LIGHT REFRESHMENTS & SNACKS THROUGHOUT THE DAY

Monday, 20 September 2010

Room at the Top for Strong Leadership

Article published by Ross Martin (Policy Director) in the Scotsman 8/9/2010.

“More than a quarter of Scotland's population live in them. Two in every three jobs are created by them. A third of research and development is carried out in and around them, and half of our gross value added is produced by them. They are the engines of our economy; they are Scotland's cities.

Our cities are the beating heart of the Scottish Government's drive towards sustainable economic growth and they will remain so regardless of the outcome of next year's election or the political composition of the incoming administration.

And yet who leads Scotland's cities? Do we have a single political personality to match the gung-ho dynamism of New York's former leader Rudolph Giuliani, the bold character of a Boris Johnson or the direct political purpose of a "Red Ken"? These city leaders make a real difference when they combine their own character with real political power. Sadly, our city councillors simply don't have that political power to impose themselves and their programmes in the same way that these leaders of real world cities do.

Setting aside political preference, no-one can argue against the fact that Giuliani made safe the streets of New York with his get-tough policy of Zero Tolerance to crime, or that he made New Yorkers feel safer with his dynamic leadership after 9/11.

Equally, it is impossible to argue against the fact that Johnson took on the Home Office and removed the UK's most senior police chief and so prepared the ground for the policy of directly elected police commissioners. And what of Ken Livingstone, the left-wing leader who introduced the UK's first example of demand management in a period of rapid growth, the congestion charge? This was made possible, without the central government interference that killed off his cheap fares on the Underground, because he was a directly elected mayor with a mandate.

Compare and contrast the success of "Red Ken" pushing through that change, of much greater magnitude and impact than that attempted in Edinburgh, with the democratic debacle that the capital's council oversaw. London's congestion charge has become an integral part of the transport system, helping pay for much need infrastructure upgrades.

What price that firm leadership and policy for Edinburgh to fund the trams or for Glasgow to pay for the much needed upgrade of the subway or for Aberdeen to pay for a by-pass?

Our city leaderships have had to resort to other ways of seeking support for such transport projects that will drive economic growth, for example Edinburgh's then leader being unable to even secure the support of his own colleagues and seeking refuge in a referendum doomed to failure before the ballot had even begun. Have our other cities fared any better?

In Aberdeen, this lack of political power has frustrated any real effort to tackle the structural budget deficit the city council inherited from day one. Created on 1 April, 1996, a cruel joke indeed, Aberdeen City Council required extraordinarily strong leadership denied it by the then, and still current political system of an unmanageably large number of councillors. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the one person who has made a difference has now been appointed by Edinburgh.

Chief executive Sue Bruce was enabled to introduce significant change in Aberdeen only after external intervention following the near financial collapse of the city council, using previously unavailable centralised power invested in her position with the tacit support of the elected leadership. She will make a big difference to Edinburgh, bringing a fresh approach and direction but I fear the democratic difficulties that bedevil our councils will still put the brakes on reform of public services in the capital.

In Dundee, the only politician the public is likely to recognise is one who doesn't even represent the city, once seen impersonating a cat on reality TV. Even though the City Chambers and Caird Hall resemble the Kremlin, the city council simply does not have the power that would make a real difference to the City of Discovery.

And what of Glasgow? OK, we can accept that Steven Purcell was seen as a mayor and treated as one but the sometimes shabby internal political compromises had to engineer to appease the unworkably large number of councillors has left a sorry legacy that threatens to dilute the democratic power of his successor, not strengthen it.

The conclusion from these examples is obvious: our cities deserve stronger leadership, as they strive to find positive routes out of economic crisis. They need to have the political power that enables world cities to tackle crises without the need to go cap in hand to national government. Not that our national politicians, either MSPs or MPs have a great record of supporting their cities, other than a few notable exceptions - such as Margo MacDonald's success in securing a capital city supplement for Edinburgh.

It is impossible to point to a single occasion when our MSPs or MPs have set aside tribal party division and worked together for the city's greater good. Why can't they grasp the opportunity that the tight political arithmetic of the Scottish Parliament presents them by organising to form strong, powerful and influential city caucuses that can make the case for projects in their own cities? Secure the budget, make the improvements and then argue about who was responsible, rather than arguing about what benefits can be achieved as the cities stand still.

For example, in Edinburgh wouldn't it just be capital to see all of the city's MSPs working together on an agreed investment plan to improve transport infrastructure, rather than simply contributing to the many, disparate voices that dominate that debate? Each of the other core cities would also benefit from such collective action, and would be strengthened immeasurably by the election of a mayor to act as both lead voice and focus, regardless of party interest.

Led by an elected mayor, Edinburgh could also tackle the difficulties described by Bill Jamieson in his analysis of an over-reliance on the financial services sector, which itself is a neat mirror image of Scotland's over-reliance on the public sector. Both of these problems require the same action - diversification, to move from reliance to resilience. However, the political system our cities suffer does not encourage nor enable the type of diversity of thought or action that a directly elected mayor, working with committed national politicians, can bring.

As each of the city councils seeks to make its contribution to the drive back towards sustainable growth while implementing real cuts in public service costs, they must all shrink their workforce, by an average of 1,000 people. A powerful and imaginative mayor could provide the drive and determination to not only ensure swift action but more importantly, to use that change as an opportunity to turn around Scotland's embarrassingly low birth and growth rate for small and medium-sized enterprises, while at the same time reducing our over-reliance on the public sector, with a workforce planning programme that could spin out small companies and social enterprises from the councils in a manner similar to that done by our universities.

The time for Scotland's cities to join the rest of the world and elect mayors has arrived, along with the opportunity for our MSPs and MPs to take a leaf from the UK coalition government's book, set aside their party differences and fuel these engines of our economy”.