Scottish Secretary David Mundell has called for a debate on what new powers historic burghs such as Hawick, Melrose and Kelso should be given by Holyrood in order to take greater control over their own affairs.
In a speech on devolution, Mr Mundell, the Tory MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said that local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council needs to make its voice heard with the Scottish Government and make the case for greater powers. He said the variety and diversity of Scottish councils meant that a one size fits all approach does not work, and pointed to the fact that councils like Stirling and the Scottish Borders have much smaller populations than the likes of Glasgow or Edinburgh but they are spread across much larger areas.
Mr Mundell said: “The issue of devolution to local communities is now an urgent one for Scotland. There is a revolution going on in local government across the rest of the United Kingdom, with local areas regaining power and responsibility at an unprecedented rate. Scotland cannot afford to be left behind as the rest of the UK revolutionises how it governs itself, giving towns, cities and counties more of the autonomy which our international competitors enjoy. It’s time we had a proper debate about devolution within Scotland.
“And it should be a real debate – because one size does not fit all. We need to respect difference. Cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee have large populations and small geographical areas. Council areas like Stirling and Scottish Borders have smaller populations, spread across much larger areas. In a country with the variety and diversity of Scotland, one size can never fit all. But when it comes to local government, we’ve pretended it can for too long.
“What is the right path for our big cities will not necessarily be the right route for our villages and towns to take. Why don’t Scotland’s local authorities strike burgh deals, so proud and historic burghs can have a more direct say in their affairs? People in places like Hawick, Melrose and Kelso should join the debate. Scotland is fortunate to have a strong network of community councils, often based around historic settlements in which people feel real pride. Why don’t they take on more of a role?
Mr Mundell added: “Councils like the Scottish Borders need to make their voices heard and tell the Scottish Government what powers and responsibilities they want to have to shape their futures. That should be national debate, and I commit to play my part in that. Devolution is not worthy of the name if it stops at the gates of Holyrood.”