Sunday, 31 October 2010

Single this, single that..........

Following on from the SNP conference a few weeks ago when Alex Salmond made his fairly vague "Bobbies before boundaries" speech, Iain Gray, Labour's leader in Scotland, has announced his intention to create a single national police force, and a single Fire & Rescue service.

And there is more.

He will reduce the number of health authorities, and create a new single national service for looking after the elderly, integrated more in to the NHS.

With the two biggest parties at Holyrood both now moving quickly down this centratlizing path, it seems fairly clear that Lib Dem pressure must be applied to ensure adequate local accountability. Iain Gray, to his credit, at least acknowledged this as an issue, but the fine details of actually ensuring that will have to bear a lot of scrutiny.

The new proposed National Care Service does intuitively sound like a good idea, and could be a really big idea to be taken forwards in Scotland. Put alongside the Coalition proposal to simplfy pensions and give everyone potentially £140 a week, it seems pretty clear that pensioners and those approaching retiring age can see a little more certainty moving forwards, and if a system can be put together that is properly future-proofed, then there will obviously be benefits in this for all of us.

The down side to this is that in having care of the elderly taken away from them, that local authorities will lose a fair proportion of their overall capacity, and that might then effect their capacity for other purposes. There may well be unintended consequences.

Allied to this, there was a fear when the Scottish Parliament was created that this might be the first step to taking power away from local authorities, and here we have a very good example of a function being taken away.

Who knows what the outcome to all this will be, but it is good to see these big ideas being put up for discussion well in advance of the elections next year.

Expect plenty of analysis and scrutiny of these ideas in the months to come.........

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