Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ideas 71-80

71. Introduce the City Region concept for Inverness and Highland

It is widely recognised that our cities are the beating heart of the Scottish economy. Numerous stats abound: 40% of jobs and 47% of GVA reside in Scotland’s four main cities - Aberdeen Dundee, Edinburgh & Glasgow.

And yet the previous Scottish Government had no clear strategy for maximising the potential of our cities. The parties’ manifestos make some good suggestions, but much more needs to be done. As Ivan Turok said in 2008

“If the city-region systems don’t function well the consequences for prosperity may not be felt immediately, but the bottlenecks, capacity constraints, unreliability and distortions accumulate over time, adding to business and personal costs, reducing productivity, undermining investment and location decisions and damaging long-term prospects”

We believe that supporting the cities should be a priority for Scottish Government economic policy and call on the new Scottish Government to institute a new Cities Review with a view to putting in place a Cities Strategy. The following should also be considered:

• A Minister with clear responsibility for cities policy.
• A Cabinet sub-committee with responsibility for the cities.
• A Scottish Parliamentary Committee for the Cities.
• A Cross Party Group for the Cities

72. All local newspapers to support local businesses, funded by public support

73. Establish a national investment fund to integrate public sector buildings

74. Transfer responsibility for road/footpath networks to housing associations

75. GPs to be incentivised to reduce big pharmaceutical bills

76. Link Neighbourhood Watch to their local constable

77. Develop a graduate placement programme (reciprocal) with national embassies/consulates

We already run the hugely successful “Adopt an Intern” programme that focuses domestically on graduate unemployment. To date, we have secured almost 100 placements.

Let’s take it on tour and truly enrich the interns learning experience.

78. End numerical parity for council wards and concentrate on community cohesion

79. Tie capital funding to active Asset Management Plans

80. Annual regional sports tournaments to be created as commonwealth games legacy

The Lib Dems stole this from us!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

CSPP in the News - Council Tax Freeze

CSPP Board Member Professor Richard Kerley was interviewed on GMS.

Click here to listen(fast forward to 2:09:56).

2011 Scottish Greens Manifesto

The Greens were the last major party to publish their manifesto for the Holyrood elections.

Click here to read it and here to watch a feature on Newsnight Scotland (fast forward to 24 mins in).

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Key points from the Big Economy Debate

Q1 Where will the jobs of the future come from?

All emphasised the supporting role Govt plays in creating the right conditions and the importance of renewables. Some individual differences were apparent, particularly in Harvie’s stance against the “Tory-Liberal cuts” which surprisingly Labour didn’t echo.

Also, Purvis focused more on skills investment, Swinney on reindustrialising the economy and Kerr on the internationalisation of our economy.

Q2. How many public sector jobs will be lost by 2015?

Labour & SNP answered this question in a very similar fashion: namely, “you can’t put a number on it” (Swinney). They both stated that there will be no compulsory redundancies too.

Purvis agreed that you couldn’t put a number on it but rejected (as did Brownlee & Harvie) the belief that there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Q3 Should Scotland’s tax raising powers be used to reduce taxes to bring companies & employment into the country?

The panel agreed unanimously that they would not use existing (or new) tax raising powers to reduce tax levels. For Kerr it would “lead to a race to the bottom” Irish style; for Harvie we need to be “talking about progressively increasing tax from the wealthy”; and Purvis focused on the Coalition’s success in raising the threshold for personal income tax.

Meanwhile, Brownlee asked those who were offering tax breaks to “explain how they will deliver it” and Swinney believed it would “impede economic recovery” - Scotland needs full fiscal independence.

Q4 How long can the council tax freeze continue for?

Broadly speaking, all parties support the council tax freeze. The debate centres on the duration of the freeze and its long term replacement.

Labour will freeze it for 2 years but give themselves (and councils) the flexibility to increase it if they provide sufficient justification and it’s below the rate of inflation.

The SNP will freeze it for the whole term of the next parliament but explore the introduction of a local income tax.

The Lib Dems will share Labour’s position but like the SNP want to replace council tax with a local income tax.

The Tories will freeze it until 2012-13 and thereafter look at it year on year while the Greens want to replace council tax with a land value tax.

5. What would you do to encourage banks to lend to small/medium enterprises?

Given this is a reserved issue Brownlee summed it up well when he said “we can’t do much (other than) put pressure on the banks behind the scenes”.

Nevertheless, there were some different answers. Swinney said he would roll out the Scottish Loan Fund, while Kerr emphasised the importance of underpinning risks and increasing the role of co-investment.

Purvis said he would replace the current economic development infrastructure with a regional development bank, an idea supported by Harvie. The latter also stressed the importance of microfinance.

6. Was the £500m spent on the Edinburgh Tram project a good use of public money?

The responses offered were exactly what you would expect from this topical question. All lamented the way the project had been managed but committed to completing it. Moreover, 4 out of the 5 parties (not the Greens) stated categorically that there would be no more central government funding.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Big Economy Debate - the Scorecard in action

For the second week running the BBC punctured the sanctuary of our Sunday with an election debate. Out went the informal, laid back setting (and the illogical exclusion of Patrick Harvie) and in came the invited audience and their barrage of tough questions on the economy. Well, that was the idea.

The debate was structured around the following six questions:

1. Where will the jobs of the future come from?
2. How many public sector jobs will be lost by 2015?
3. Should Scotland’s tax raising powers be used to reduce taxes to bring companies & employment into the country?
4. How long can the council tax freeze continue for?
5. What would you do to encourage banks to lend to small/medium enterprises?
6. Was the £500m spent on the Edinburgh Tram project a good use of public money?

In the previous blog I explained how I would use my subjective scorecard/voting predictor to make the election debates more interesting and more helpful. It is specifically targeting floating voters (of which I am one) who will be disproportionately swayed by the TV debates.

So here it goes in alphabetical order:


Derek Brownlee (Conservative). Popular vote (read populism) = 1. Total Score = 5.

Patrick Harvie (Greens). Popular vote = 3. Total Score = 5

Andy Kerr (Labour). Popular vote = 1. Total Score = 5

Jeremy Purvis (Lib Dems). Popular vote = 1. Total Score = 4

John Swinney (SNP). Popular vote = 3. Total Score = 4.

If you end up with a number of candidates drawing, like I have, simply subtract the popular vote and you should have a clearer idea on who to vote for. According to my scorecard I should vote Conservative or Labour, a result I'll verfiy in the next leader's debate.


These are words I wrote during the debate when I didn’t give score a candidate.

Derek Brownlee = Concise yet distant (he doesn’t always connect as well as the others)

Patrick Harvie = Passionate yet stumbled (during the trams question)

Andy Kerr (Labour) = Prepared yet impatient(a little too eager at times to engage in ‘tit for tat’ politics)

Jeremy Purvis (Lib Dems) = Accessible yet abstract (during the question on future jobs).

John Swinney (SNP) = Authoritative yet nervous (during the question on future jobs)

A few points are worthy of elaboration. The results clearly show that the Greens and the SNP are outlining a populist agenda, but in different ways. The latter’s manifesto is an ideological successor to the successful 2007 manifesto; it is rooted in popular policies (e.g. freeze council taxes, maintain universalism etc).

The former is adopting an interesting strategy that combines their ever present strong focus on sustainability with a left wing economic populism that will resonate with many voters.

The other important point, which will be clearly illustrated in the next blog, is the consensus shared between the parties at Holyood. On job creation, income tax, small businesses, renewables and council tax there is a great deal of agreement.

Barry McCulloch
CSPP Policy Manager (but my idea alone)

Making the debates helpful & watchable

Warning this article contains unscientific methods. The sample size used is one.

Cometh the election, cometh the poll - wave after wave after wave after wave. If not drowning, my patience with these polls is clinging on to a dingy.

So I thought I would do something completely different and create a wholly subjective debate scorecard and voting predictor for floating voters when they watch the remaining debates.

At the very least it will make them more watchable, or maybe not.

Step 1. On an A4 sheet of paper create a table with the candidates’ names horizontally at the top and draw 5 (or whoever many are included) lines vertically to separate the candidates.

Step 2. Create your own symbols. I wanted to weigh my own views (represented by a tick) against what I thought the public would like to hear (represented by a circle). Baically, I wanted to offset my own prejudices! With the latter, I tried to think about what the public want to hear, for example, no cuts, protecting public services etc.

Step 3. Split the rounds to correspond with the questions. On scoring, you can give half marks and you are not compelled to give a candidate a score every round. Nor are you restricted by the number of ticks/circles you can give per round.

Step 4. If you do not give a candidate a score write a word to describe their performance in that round.

Step 4. Away you go, but only watch live if you can pause the action.

Step 5. Tally up the scores at the end, separating out who appeared to be the most populist, and there you have it. Your vote is decided or perhaps not if you scored the candidates the same.

I’ve tested this on last night’s “Big” Economy debate. Scores will follow very soon!

Barry McCulloch, CSPP Policy Manager

P.s. this is my own geeky idea.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

CSPP in the News - Education Reform

Yesterday our policy director Ross Martin appeared on Call Kaye.

To listen to the programme (13/4/11) click here.

Fast forward to 16:10.

P.s. You have 6 days left to listen to the programme.

SNP Manifesto: Re-elect a Scottish Government working for Scotland

The livestream of the SNP manifesto has just finished.

You can access their manifesto for the 2011 SP elections here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Ideas 61-70

Where possible we've tried to green today's ideas given it is the only climate day of the 2011 SP election campaign. It isn't an exhaustive list but it should wet your appetite for tonight's online debate (starts at 1930) orgainsed by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

61. The next Government should publish a green jobs strategy

The next Scottish Government should publish a green jobs strategy which feeds into a refreshed economic recovery plan

At a joint event with RSPB, Finance Secretary John Swinney announced in February 2009 that 16,000 green jobs would be created in a decade. We welcomed the announcement then, and still do, but we require more details on how a green new deal will be achieved.

The next Government must publish a green jobs strategy which feeds into the economic recovery plan, whoever is successful in the ballot box. The South Korean example is illustrative whereby the Government allocated 95% of its fiscal stimulus into environmental sectors.

62. All high school sports facilities to be open for community use.

63. Embed financial literacy classes in the school curriculum.

The importance of literacy and numeracy cannot be understated. They are the building blocks of a person’s educational development. But there’s another type of literacy (financial) we hear very little of even though it is arguably equally as important.

The great economic crash of 2008 brought home just how financially illiterate the majority of global consumers were. In America the public (often low income families) were being sold ever more complex financial products that they didn’t understand and the financial services preyed on this lack of knowledge.

The situation wasn’t as bad here but the continuing high levels of personal indebtedness clearly illustrates we have a problem. The Independent Commission on Banking may or may not affect the positive change we need in financial markets - that remains to be seen - but it is not in there remit to remedy the situation with consumers.

The solution is quite straightforward. We embed classes on financial literacy/personal economics in the high school curriculum which is paid for (if not all, then a large majority) by the banks.

Students would lean about different types of bank accounts, the importance of savings and the numerous ways one can save (ISAs etc), the dangers of easy money (re cheque centre etc), interest rates, inflation - you get the picture.

64. Introduce public sector loan schemes to drive capital deployment for energy efficiency, low carbon and renewable, while exploring other innovative financial instruments for the public sector to meet the capital challenge of a low carbon society.

With thanks to members of our energy and environment group for this idea. You know who you are.

65. MEPs should sit on the European parliamentary committee on a rotational basis.

Scotland has 6 MEPs but neither of them sit on the Scottish Parliament’s European & External Affairs Committee. It’s crazy.

Now obviously not all of them could serve on the committee together, nor could they considering its remit extends beyond European affairs.

But here’s an idea. Once a month an MEP (on a rotational basis) sits on the committee and (amongst many other things) pads out the Brussels Bulletin. In fact, the MEP could produce their own Brussels Bulletin.

The European Parliament has a massive impact on Holyrood; indeed, all of Scotland. We need to ensure that the relationship between these two chambers is much closer.

66. All high schools to have, or have ready access to, a proper theatre space.

67. Publicly record the names of irresponsible pubs/clubs who allow clientele to get 'smashed'.

68. 10% of the Scottish Govt's transport budget should be allocated (and ring fenced) to active travel

If the Scottish Government has any chance of hitting its cycling target (10% of all journeys by 2020) significant investment has to be made in Scotland’s sustainable transport infrastructure. At least 10% of the central government transport budget should be allocated (and ring-fenced) to active travel.

69. A programme of inter-establishment and cross sectral mergers in higher education.

Hear our policy director Ross Martin on today’s Call Kaye speaking about education reform.

70. Streamline representative groups and give them a statutory role.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Fantasy Land of Devolved Politics

It’s official. The 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections are entirely divorced from reality. The manifestos published thus far - Tories, Lib Dems and Labour - solidify the view that devolved politics in Scotland operates in a fantasy land removed from the economic realities of our time. How else can we explain the crowd pleasing expenditure commitments of the main political parties?

In many ways the political parties in Scotland are like financial markets: they want to get back to business as usual (expenditure commitments & maximising private returns at all cost respectively) as quickly as possible. Neither one is prepared to take a step back and analyse what went wrong.

Of course, elections are not the time or the place for our parliamentarians to question their current modus operandi, but their manifestos should have been shaped by the truly different economic times we find ourselves. Indeed, reading their litany of spending promises one reasonably questions whether or not the 2008 economic crisis actually happened.

Our manifesto called for our policy makers to wake up and undertake a fundamental root and branch review of our political and economic infrastructure to ensure that our democracy, economy and public services could be delivered in a different way.

This doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.

Barry McCulloch, CSPP Policy Manager
(These opinions are those of the author)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Ideas 56-60

56. Empower Community Councils

Community councils in Scotland are, according to the Scottish Government, “the most local form of elected representation in Scotland”. Their purpose is to represent and improve their local community. They are unique as they have statutory rights and powers and are treated as the equivalent of English and Welsh Parish Councils by UK government regulators.

However, they do not currently have the same powers as their English and Welsh counterparts. Meanwhile in some of Scotland, Community Councils are often disregarded and are not usually viewed as a tier of government even though they legally have that role.

Currently, community councils only have the legal right to be consulted on local community planning issues in areas that they exist. In some areas of Scotland where there is a strong community council presence, minor functions of local government could be devolved.

In England, community councils already have the ability to provide minor functions in co-operation with their principle local authority. This means that they might currently provide, maintain or contribute to services such as: allotments and leisure facilities; bus shelters; litter bins; car parks; local illuminations; community centres; and parks and open spaces.

These are all services and functions that could be implemented more effectively in many local authority areas in Scotland if the powers were devolved to strong, representative community councils.

Ryan McRobert
CSPP Intern

57. Tie revenue funding to efficiency targets (e.g. merging public and schools library services)

58. Make modern/civic studies compulsory in high schools

There is a reason so many young people are disengaged with our democracy. The nature of our partisan, combative political system is only part of the answer. Another important part of the answer lies with education.

Presently, school pupils only study two years of modern studies which is generally rotated with the other social sciences (History & Geography). This isn’t enough. It should be mandatory that all pupils take a Standard Grade in Modern Studies so that they can learn, amongst many, many other things, the importance of contributing in our democratic system.

59. Check ID at polling stations.

60. Protect and grow fuel poverty budgets while rethinking current approaches

The Scottish Government will not meet its 2016 target to eradicate fuel poverty. The number of fuel poor in Scotland now sits at 1 in 3, an 8% increase since 2007. This, unfortunately, is not surprising considering the continuing increase of household fuel prices and the disappointing performance of the Energy Assistance Package whose budget is set to be cut.

If the next Government wishes to simply halt the decline of fuel poverty it must utilise the policy levers at its disposal by stringently assessing the effectiveness of the EAP and by protecting and growing fuel poverty budgets.

Ideas 51-55

51. All referendums should be preceded by prime time TV deliberations

Referendums are almost two centuries old and are imperfect, obsolete tools for a 21st century democracy. As Bruce Ackerman & James Fishkin noted

If an issue is important enough to warrant decision by the people as a whole, it is important enough to require a more deliberate approach to decision-making.

This is, of course, the well-known and successful deliberative polling that the authors have been using in democracies all around the world to better educate the electorate before a referendum.

To date I have saw nothing of this sort on the AV referendum, and given it is a vote on an electoral system the importance of democracy education cannot be understated. Indeed, what’s the point in asking people’s opinion on AV if they don’t know what it is?

The solution is simple: two weeks before the referendum screen three prime time TV deliberations (or local discussions at various community centres throughout the country) which will allow the electorate the opportunity to discuss and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of AV. Only then will we all be able to cast an informed vote in the referendum.

52. All funded sportsmen/women to be contracted to assist with school programmes

A simple yet inspiring way to engage our youngsters in an active lifestyle.

53. Schools should make more use of Scotland’s rich cultural, natural, geographical, scientific and historical resources for education.

Why doesn’t this already occur? For a start it would put less of a financial burden on parents who often have to fork out thousands on expensive, foreign school trips. But more than it, it would create more custom for Scottish businesses and establishments, more young people with first-hand knowledge of their own country, and a smaller carbon footprint.

These are significant benefits. The additional expenditure that might circulate through Scotland's economy would surely be enormous. Most young people have other opportunities to travel abroad that didn't exist when these foreign trips started.

Richard Heggie
Director of Urban Animation
RTPI’s UK Planning Consultant of the Year 2009

54. Prioritise NPF projects in National Capital Budget

55.Create a Presiding Officer's Commission on alcohol policy

The last four years in Holyrood have seen this issue becoming even more politicised at the expense of evidence based social policy. This can’t happen again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Fighting for what really matters: 2011 Scottish Labour Manifesto

In the last half hour or so, Labour has published their manifesto. You can read it by clicking here.

Ross Martin & Leigh Sparks: Time to offer hope to town centres

Published in the Scotsman, 6/4/2011. Click here to read it in its original form.

"Ignored, abandoned and unloved, there has to be a clear and coherent policy to protect the future of High Street shopping in Scotland.

SCOTLAND'S towns and town centres are a defining feature and a vital resource for the country. They provide considerable social and economic benefits, improve the quality of life and assist in meeting the Scottish Government's five strategic priorities for Scotland. Towns and town centres are the beating heart of Scotland and Scottish life. Well, that's the official rhetoric; straight from the Scottish Government.

And what of the opposition? Well, there is none; not on this issue. From genuine cross-party consensus the Town Centre Regeneration Fund (TCRF) was born. Across the country, communities have benefited from the TCRF, with towns pushing forward with long-awaited capital projects, high streets being given much needed restoration and make-overs and town centres being enabled to stabilise and, hopefully, then grow.

So what's the problem? Why are our towns and town centres still screaming and problems still mounting?

The reality on the ground is something far removed from the romantic and nostalgic view of town centres that many people and politicians still harbour. Most of Scotland's town centres are at best in a state of arrested decay and at worst suffering accelerating decline. The one-off sticking plaster of the Town Centre Regeneration Fund has done its best, but there is so much more that needs to be done to turn the rhetoric, and our ambitions, into a reality we can be rightly proud of.

Sure, there are some TCRF projects that promise to make a real difference, eg the excellent regeneration project in Falkirk, that is making the most of the town's cultural heritage and, literally, putting the soul back into the town centre with an inspired streetscape project based around the Steeple. This project points the way towards a better future. But it can only be seen as a step along that journey. So much more can, and needs to, be achieved. Too many of our town centres lack commitment, dedication and political priority. Shops can't vote. For far too long our town centres were reliant upon individual elected members, whether that was the sole local councillor, the MP or more recently the constituency MSP. If that person took an interest then maybe, just maybe, a town centre would be given political priority at budget time.

If not, then neglect was inevitably followed by decline, often hastened by other decisions to allow development (housing, retail, offices, leisure, government) away from the town centre.

This lack of voice has always been exacerbated by a lack of focus amongst those responsible for the various, complex, integrated functions a town centre needs to survive, let alone thrive. Caught between the regulatory role of planners, the engineering bias of the roads department and the economic portfolio split between local councils and Scottish Enterprise, our town centres have been strangled by costs, competition, regulation and inaction.

This patchwork of responsibilities and the bias towards the modern, more easily and more cheaply built and operated developments out of town has encouraged fragmentation, decentralisation, neglect and then decline. You can't blame authorities, businesses and then consumers for their actions, when we go out of our way to make town centres difficult and expensive places in which to develop and operate. We are, as someone has recently said, all in this together, without even a banker to blame.

We have to rethink and re-invigorate our town centres. We have to re-imagine and re-define their roles. We have to ask fundamental questions as to their function and place in modern society and then decide how we look at, and after, them. If we are to give them the confidence to change their futures and provide the economic, social and cultural focus that they demand and Scotland deserves, then we need to take a fresh look at our town centres.

We have to ensure that:

• All action promoting town centre activity is co-ordinated and concerted

• We measure where we are, assess what works and dump what does not

• Funding streams are repositioned and focused to drive activity within town centres

• Local solutions are encouraged, tried and supported

• Policies for town centres are aligned and implemented.

There are a number of concrete (forgive the pun) measures that can be taken. One of these costs money, many of them do not. First, we need to re-create the Town Centre Regeneration Fund, because once is simply not enough. The TCRF's £60 million spread across Scotland was a start, but if you consider that the proposed extension to the Buchanan Galleries is likely to cost £100m, the Parliament building cost over £400m and the new Forth Crossing will cost at least £1.5bn, then it's not hard to see the need for a much more significant investment in Scotland's town centres.

Secondly, existing revenue budgets need to be pooled and localised in our town centres. The cash which councils spend on street-cleaning, street-lighting and signposting should be centralised into one facilities management pot, along with that collected in waste management charges, litter fines and of course non-domestic rates.

The town centre budget could then be significantly enhanced with income generated through targeted taxation, for example the collection of car parking charges, the introduction of green taxes (e.g. to meet recycling targets) and the use of Business Improvement Districts, and their ability to agree upon a small additional levy in return for a specified, targeted package of enhancement measures and a say in the management and leadership of the town centre.

Out of centre activities, be they public or private office, leisure, retail or any other function which should be contributing towards the vibrancy and vitality of Scotland's town centres should pay their fair share. This is not about "punishing" activities for impacts they have, or the fact they are successful, but instead is about rebalancing the costs and opportunities for the good of Scotland as a whole. This is not a single-sector policy issue, but a locational issue across all sectors. Any activity that leaves an empty footprint on our high street should be considered a candidate to contribute to its regeneration, but equally we have to make it cheaper and more attractive to develop inside towns and town centres.

It is all too easy to blame one sector or policy for town centre decay. We have, by our own actions over half a century, neglected our town centres. Driven by many factors. The way we live has changed, and will change further. If town centres are our lifeblood, then we have to support them, guide them and encourage radical thinking and actions over a sustained period. We do not need, nor will we get back the town centre of the 1950s or 1960s, but what we need is energetic and effective town centres for Scotland in the early 21st century.

The alternative to action now is a continued spiral of decline and the loss of something that makes us Scottish, an integral component of this place called Scotland, what it is, and more importantly, what it can be.

Ross Martin is Policy Director at the CSPP, the Centre for Scottish Public Policy

Leigh Sparks is Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling."

• This comment represents personal views though informed through the Scottish Towns Policy Group established by CSPP.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Idea 50: Internationalise the public and not-for-profit sectors in Scotland

Internationalisation of the Public and Not for Profit Sectors in Scotland.

Internationalisation is a subject that is of interest for many public and not for profit sector organisations in Scotland, but many lack the internal capacity and operational understanding to maximise their potential in such a market place. The present economic climate when we are faced with budget cuts may not feel like the best time to launch an internationalisation strategy, but the reality is that even more than before organisations need to look for different methods of delivery and need to identify new opportunities to sustain their operations.

For example, the arrival of structural funds in the new EU Member States has caused a shift in the market place and the reality of the situation is that now the New Member States have a significant share of the EU structural funds and very limited operational capacity. In contrast, Scotland has a large share of the operational know how and capacity but a diminishing share of the funds. This brings forward new and emerging opportunities for international partnerships between public and not for profit organisations in the old and new EU member states, and potentially in transition economies.

There is potential for Scottish organisations to establish institutional and professional partnerships, to provide technical assistance and know-how transfer to support the continuous growth, and increase the absorption capacity of their under-developed counterpart organisations in other countries. There is real scope for Scottish organisations to expand their operations into a number of clearly focussed sectors and for the public and not for profit sector to take forward the Team Scotland approach foreseen in the Government’s International and European Strategies.

In 2008 representatives from a number of organisations were willing to work together to develop a pilot project that could bring forward international partnership opportunities for the whole of public and not for profit sectors in Scotland. Although this idea did not move forward, the interest and opportunities still exist. We would therefore call for the establishment of a pilot project, based around the model that has been successfully applied by NICO in Northern Ireland.

This idea was provided by Ann Hyde, a European Consultant @ Think International, who was a member of our now defunct European advisory group.

Do you have a good idea? Let us know and we'll post it.

Ideas 41-49

41. Condition schools funding on raising educational attainment.

All public funding should have an element of performance-related payment in order to ensure that each and every public pound is being spent to maximum effect. With schools, it would be relatively straight-forward to devise assessment criteria which determine how good a school is doing to meet agreed objectives, whether that is academic performance, community involvement or sporting/artistic achievement.

Such a performance management system would encourage a results-driven culture (not simply exam results) that ensures that young people coming thru the school system are being given the tools required to make their next steps in the world.

42. Empower voters by giving them the ability to recall MSPs who have committed serious wrongdoing

The current Holyrood election campaign is again revealing the growing gap between those in the “Holyrood bubble” and the electorate. We need to seriously look at ways to reinvigorate our democracy and to make it relevant and accessible for all. Giving voter’s the ability to recall is no silver bullet but it is part of the narrative to refresh our apathetic democracy.

43. Appoint local electoral commissions to encourage turnout and locate polling stations in major shopping centres.

44. Football clubs to fund the entire policing operation for their games.

After the farce of the Old Firm this isn't an unreasonable ask.

45. Establish one year sabbaticals for talented yet tired teachers.

46. Roll out the lend a hand initiative to kick-start the mortgage market and boost the construction industry

I’m one of thousands of first time buyers who cannot afford to get a mortgage. It’s not that we don’t want to, we do, but we can’t afford the minimum 10% deposit the banks require. And so many first time buyers get stuck in a vicious circle where they cannot save for a deposit because their forking out a minimum of £500 per month for inflated rent rates.

This is not to mention the knock on effects this has on the mortgage market itself, the local/national economy and the construction industry.

Thankfully, the UK Coalition Government have responded to the crisis with their “local lend a hand” imitative, a pilot involving 15 local councils. Through a pre-existing Lloyds TSB scheme, local authorities will provide a cash-backed indemnity of 20% leaving the buyer to put down a deposit of 5%. Thus far only one Scottish local authority (East Lothian) and one bank is participating in the scheme.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough. If the pilot is successful after 6 months we need to roll this programme out nationally. Undeniably, it is a fair and cost effective way to kick-start the ailing mortgage market.

Yet to make it sustainable local councils in Scotland have to be able to raise revenue- they cannot continue to allocate further spend when the budget isn’t there. Local Government in Scotland is severely restricted on how they can raise additional revenue given their reliance on Central Government funding. But they can raise council tax. The big question is this: will the next Scottish Government allow councils the flexibility and autonomy to make this decision on their own terms?

47. Create a national planning policy that enables pharmacies to be constructed on NHS sites

48. Advocacy Groups to be given formal role as parliamentary advisers

The Stop Climate Chaos Campaign played a pivotal role in the development of the landmark Cliamte Change Act. Should they, or other advocacy groups that clearly improve the quality of legislation, be given a formal role as parliamentary advisers?

49. Scrap the Waverley line and extend the Trams to Gorebridge with Borders Transport Interchange.

Solutions for Scotland: 2011 Scottish Lib Dems Manifesto

The Lib Dems launched their manifesto this morning and can be read by clicking here.

Again, expect it to feature on tonight's Newsnight Scotland and it to feature on our blog review by the end of the week.

Common Sense for Scotland: 2011 Scottish Conservative Manifesto

The Tories were the first major Scottish party to launch their manifesto at Glasgow's Science Centre yesterday.

Click here to read the document and here to watch a feature courtesy of Newsnight Scotland.

P.s. Expect a more meaty review in a few days.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Ideas 31-40

31. Council garage/lock-up sites to be released for social housing sites

Far too many council garage sites are used for lock-ups and should be removed (replaced by central facilities either run by local businesses or by a specially established social enterprise). This would release these sites, adjacent to and in many cases in the centre of already established housing areas, for a mix of social housing, including affordable, social rented, shared equity, etc.

Every council should be undertaking an asset management assessment of these sites, where they exist, or indeed other parcels of land that would help to solve Scotland’s terrible housing shortage.

32. Establish a Healthy Towns Initiative through a Town Centre Regeneration Fund II

33. All civic representative bodies to share an office base near Holyrood at affordable renting rates.

34. Fund GARL with M8 and/or M74 motorway tolls

35. National Newspapers to have PSO to cover national, regional and local government

36. Introduce a sequential test for office developments along the lines of that in place for large retail applications.

This would secure existing usage and drive new footfall into our town centres

37. Initiate a loft and garage (and perhaps basement) conversion scheme to increase building density.

38. Establish a Senate of the Leaders for Stirling.

39. Develop stronger links at each level between the Court Service and the rest of the public service family.

40. Divert a percentage of the TV license fee to the arts community.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Ideas 22 - 30

Idea 22. Create an ARTS-ISA for those operating in financial markets (bankers etc)

Idea 23. Move to electronic voting making participation legally binding

Idea 24. All public funding of football to be tied to national restructuring. Ross wrote a great article on this issue in the Scotsman - click here.

Idea 25. No in-service days during term times.

Idea 26. Move from four year to three year honours degrees.

After four years many graduates do not have the requisite skills to succeed in the labour market given the abstract nature of their education. I was one of them. Cut it down to three and embed work related skills much more fully in the curriculum.

Idea 27. Each school cluster to be encouraged to develop its own media profile.

Idea 28. Create a Scottish League of Cities.

The cities in America, for instance, organise themselves as a well-oiled, well drilled, powerful collective against central government. Scottish cities should do the same and in fact some already doing it.

Idea 29. Replace ASBOs with high visibility reparation activities.

ASBOs don't work.

Idea 30. All new housing developments over 500 units to include local integrated health facility.

A different 100 ideas returns - Idea 21

Ok we’ve not been keeping up with this as well as we should have, but we just published the culmination of four years of policy work. We deserve a bit of leeway!

Now it’s back, but with a twist. We want this process to be much more of a dialogue rather than a one-sided, constant stream of our policy ideas.

So, from now on we’ll be posting our ideas in batches of ten. We’ll expand on one and provide a line on the others. That way it’s easier to digest and its specifically tailored to kick-start a conversation.


Idea 21. Fast track CPO for community purchase of vacant buildings and derelict land

The Land Reform legislation should be tweaked to allow local communities to buy derelict buildings and vacant sites that impact upon the desirability, vitality and vibrancy of town centres. We must enable local people to take control of their own high streets in this way of an environment conducive to economic and social activity is to be sustained, developed or in some cases created.