Comment: Where is the demand from the electorate?

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MERGING Hibs and Hearts would do it. Or selling off part of the Meadows to housing developers.

It is not easy but if you try really hard it is possible to come up with ideas less popular than putting more politicians on the public pay roll.

There is more than a whiff of bringing coals to Newcastle about the idea of creating more politicians in the Capital. If you have a problem, there is no shortage of elected representatives to look into it for you. In fact, we have a myriad of them, from MEPs and MPs, MSPs, both constituency and those on the top-up list, to city councillors, as well as community councillors in many areas, too.

Since 1999 we have had one more layer of political representation in Scotland than in cities south of the Border. Do we really need more?

It is all very well having a formula which tells us we need 90-odd councillors to look after our interests in Edinburgh. But where is the evidence that there is any desire whatsoever – never mind a pressing demand – from the electorate for it? How many people are struggling to get hold of a councillor when they need one? Precious few, we 
suspect.

There is, of course, a certain logic to appointing more councillors to cater for the rapidly growing population in the Capital. Yet if we need more councillors, we definitely have a far greater need for more doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, road repair teams and street cleaners.

If £120,000 of public money is available for improvements to public services in the Capital, there is one argument for giving some of it to councillors that is worth considering. It is not hiring more councillors, but paying more to the senior politicians who run our essential services.

The leader of the city council, for instance, currently earns less than £50,000 – less than a quarter of that earned by the chief executive of Lothian Buses – despite running an organisation employing almost 20,000 
staff.

Paying higher salaries would help attract higher quality candidates to what are undoubtedly very demanding jobs. If we could do that, then we would all 
benefit.

It would be possible to offer salary hikes for a handful of these key posts for far less than the £120,000 that is being earmarked to pay for more backbench councillors. That would be a far smarter investment.