Cameron Rose: Extending state control is proving rather costly

The reducer. The 20mph mascot.
The reducer. The 20mph mascot.
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Should we not make living within our means a virtue? Should we not take a pride in doing things well?

It is not just the national debt which the country is struggling to get under control but the Scottish Parliament and our council in Edinburgh are incurring non-essential expenditure on lots of fronts.

The “Named Person” scheme from the Scottish Government and the 20mph scheme in Edinburgh are two good examples.

The President of Social Work Scotland blithely assured us the far reaching Named Person legislation would “not change privacy laws or infringe on human rights”. Last week the Supreme Court blasted that view as nonsense. In one extraordinary passage of the judgment this comment was made: “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in the ruler’s views of the world.”

In other words, in considering the state’s responsibility to protect children and families, the state should not seek to treat every family or child as it sees fit or even equally. Strong stuff.

The court was not suggesting per se that we have a totalitarian government. Nor am I. But it was considering how close this legislation is getting. “State snooper” legislation is a form of soft totalitarianism which assumes families cannot be trusted and the state know best. And supporters must explain why claims that the scheme is not compulsory when it is – well – compulsory? For every child.

But the biggest argument against the scheme is that, rather than focus on supporting vulnerable children, its effect is to add a layer of bureaucracy and suck in a mass of resources. It is a step too far.

Could the Scottish Government stop digging and just drop the scheme which will make families more wary of teachers and health workers consume scarce resources? Further, it is likely to result in more young people failing to get the help and support they need.

What of the 20mph legislation, partly implemented in Edinburgh this weekend? There is no doubt some people see it as making their streets more benign with less speeding vehicles. I agree that may be appropriate in some areas. We have reduced speed limits around schools, for example. But many issues need considered.

It is clear from my discussion with police in Edinburgh that the chance of any realistic enforcement close to nil. So we end up with some people observing the new limits, most partly ignoring them and some ignoring them altogether. Introducing new laws which cannot be enforced just brings the law into contempt. So why are we spending millions in bringing in a city wide scheme when the maintenance of our roads is already appalling and getting worse over recent years and this when cash is short? I know their argument is that the 20mph zones will reduce road casualties, but the evidence from the pilot in the south of Edinburgh hardly bears that out.

Perhaps there is a feeling that we need to do something – anything – and grand schemes which affect everyone are preferred. Well I happen to think we should do the things we have clear responsibility to do better – and not be looking around for ways to extend the reach and responsibilities of the state.

Cllr Cameron Rose is Conservative Group Leader at City Chambers