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.
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.