Cities team up and call for quicker devolution

Lord Smith with his commission's report. Picture: Alex Hewitt
Lord Smith with his commission's report. Picture: Alex Hewitt
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Edinburgh has joined forces with Glasgow and Aberdeen to press for quicker devolution of powers to local authorities to help boost training and job creation.

The leaders of Scotland’s three largest cities signed a joint statement calling for the Work Programme to be devolved to Holyrood immediately and then passed on to councils so it can be tailored to meet local needs. The programme offers work experience and training to help people find work, but Labour says it has failed in Scotland with only one in five people getting a job afterwards.

The Smith Commission on more powers for the Scottish Parliament recommended transfer of responsibility for the Work Programme.

But city council leader Andrew Burns and his counterparts said: “Devolution of power cannot stop at Holyrood. It has to extend to every part of Scotland.

“Instead of waiting until after the election, these job creating powers should be devolved to the Scottish 
Government now, and then passed to local authorities.

“Our councils have successful experience of getting people back to work. We should be able to take control of these powers and ensure these programmes are best suited to our own local circumstances.”

The call came as leading SNP backbencher Joan McAlpine accused local authorities of “empire building”.

In a newspaper column, Ms McAlpine wrote: “The anti-SNP parties want to ‘devolve power from Holyrood’ and had this written in to the Smith Commission.

“They do this to bring down our parliament – because it is popular and the vast majority of Scots want it to have greater powers. Labour, Lib Dem and Tory still cannot accept the SNP’s majority at Holyrood – even though it was won under a system of proportional representation, giving it a greater democratic mandate than Westminster.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said more devolved powers together with proposed city deals could be “transformative” for Edinburgh and Scotland’s other cities.

The Capital hopes such a deal could net £1 billion of extra investment for a major revamp of Leith Docks, new waterfront developments and upgrades to city’s cycle network.

Mr Murphy said: “Every Scottish city should have the chance to be part of a UK City Deal and also have the chance to have the Smith Commission powers devolved to them.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com