Ricky Henderson, Labour Group Deputy Leader and Spokesperson for Finance, has something to say about independence.
"Independence" means different things to different people at different times.
At the moment everyone appears to be preoccupied with the independence referendum – even though we might all be just a bit weary of the debate by autumn 2014!
But the independence question isn’t directly relevant to the Council elections on 3rd May. Or is it?
Local councils probably won’t, and probably shouldn’t, adopt a formal yes/no position on the referendum. But when considering the wider definition of "independence", i.e. the ability of people to directly make important decisions about their own family, environment and services, it is worth remembering that the SNP government now has an established record of removing independent decision making from local councils and therefore the local electorate.
The Concordat, signed in 2007 between local government and the Scottish Government, may have led to the removal of some financial ring-fencing, but it also led to a pointless blame game between both tiers of Government about who was responsible for funding specific programmes. The argument usually ended with the conclusion that local government was responsible, even when the money had been removed!
In addition, the Single Outcome Agreements, more or less imposed on councils a few years ago, resulted in local government having to sign up to Scottish Government priorities rather than the priorities of local communities – and then local government carrying the can if said policy priorities weren’t delivered through lack of funding.
Local authorities increasingly resemble a delivery-arm of national (Holyrood) government. It’s a classic "agency-model" – a clever trick if you can pull it off. And, for the most part, the Holyrood government has done.
Regardless of who makes up this or any future Scottish Government, their relationship with council colleagues is absolutely vital.
"Parity of esteem" was an expression oft used a few years ago in an aspirational attempt to improve the relationship. Now in 2012, you don’t hear it so often used.
But that crucial relationship – between local and national – still needs a thorough examination if any remaining "independence" of Scotland’s local authorities is to survive the next 5 years.