Growing up in Dumfries, we sometimes felt like we were our own country. Our TV was not the same as Glasgow or Edinburgh, the nearest city to enjoy high street shops, a cinema bigger than one screen, and quite frankly anything a teenager would enjoy, was Carlisle. I now live in Glasgow. I’ve made it my home and I don’t intend on leaving any time soon. I’ve also lived in Dundee for a good few years. This experience in Glasgow and Dundee have highlighted just how different our problems are. In Dumfries and Galloway. I cared about transport. We had a two hour journey on an old train to Glasgow. No train connections to the borders. One train line to Edinburgh in the entire region. And that’s our connections to the outside world. Our internal train lines are non-existent. If I wanted to go to Northern Ireland I’d need to drive or take one of the few buses just to get across the land. Since moving away and into a city I have not once worried about train connections or transport in general.
Let’s be honest, it’s a fairly obvious observation and I’m not hoping to surprise anyone by pointing out that cities have better transport connections. But the problem is that with larger populations, more focus is given to the problems of these cities. We see culture, transport, industry gravitate toward the central belt in Scotland. While the highlands and north of Scotland are considered not mainland uk for deliveries. National systems cannot adequately focus on local issues. Our current system is devastatingly out of touch. The commonweal tabled data showing that the average European local area area is 38 square kilometres, while in Scotland it’s 2502 square kilometres. We see administrative centres focus on the towns placed in a sea of villages and farms. Inverness, Dumfries, Hawick. The rural area surrounding these towns suffer the same fate as the gravitational force of the central belt on the country.
So, what can be done? We need to revolutionise our local politics. Bring back our communities and place them at the forefront of our political system. That means autonomy for councils, devolution of centralised power, and a break up of current council areas into smaller, more focused and determined assemblies. Sadly, within the U.K that can’t happen. With Westminster planning to go the other direction and combine local areas, the problem will only get worse.
Independence, in my view, is not an end to the conversation. It’s the beginning. We can change these issues. Create systems of government that gives a focus to local needs. Where people can come together to discuss and implement the community’s vision for the future, with an understanding of the problems pertinent to the residents of that area. A system devised by the people that live and work in communities. A system for the 21st century. In my next few articles I want to explore what kind of government we can create, what other countries have done right, and what we can learn from modern ideas.