‘Management of the system will be key’

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THERE is welcome news for local democracy today as Edinburgh City Council’s new Labour-SNP administration announces a petitions system that will ensure the public are afforded a hearing at the City Chambers if they can find 250 signatures.

Petitions will also be considered if 20 local businesses can group together to agree on a proposed policy.

The new system is part of a series of initiatives to make decision-making more accessible for residents, according to city leader Andrew Burns, who has chided previous administrations for being “overly secretive” and lacking dialogue with the public.

Traders and residents have welcomed the development and so does the Evening News.

Both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster have working petitions committees that have helped to raise important issues that would otherwise have struggled to find airtime.

It is important, therefore, that local authorities, which are naturally closer to their electorate, should be just as responsive.

The management of the new 
system will be key, however.

Keeping the threshold at 250 signatures seems fair, but there is a danger the system could be overrun with busybodies who will use it repeatedly to push their own agenda. If petitions are seen as an access point for only a few they will not work.

It is also key that the petitions process is seen to be quick to respond. For example, the staging of city events is likely to be a popular area of interest. But this could be useless if there is a three-month wait to be heard and an event is taking place in four weeks.

How the system is managed will be as important as the idea itself.

Years of anguish

The sudden and unexplained death of grandfather Edward Dooley must have been so hard for his family to take – but the events that have followed can only have compounded their anguish.

Four years on from the discovery of his body in a layby on the outskirts of Edinburgh they are no nearer to knowing how he came to die.

In these days of great scientific advances, we expect detectives and their forensic colleagues to be able to unravel even the most complex mysteries, but this is a sobering reminder that they cannot always deliver.

We can only hope that a renewed investigation can finally answer his family’s question, and deliver justice if it turns out that murder has been committed.