The council elections across the UK this year are hugely important. That’s because our councils provide vital services on which we rely: from social care to roads, and from schools to recycling. At a time of cuts to council budgets, and increasing demand for services, the hard choices our councillors make will matter to all of us. It’s as important to vote in the council elections as in any other poll.
Many of our supporters have been asking about Scotland In Union’s stance on the council elections. Some people are suggesting that one way to support the UK is to run an ‘anyone but the SNP or the Greens’ campaign in Scotland. The basis for this is that parties use local elections to build up their power base, attract new candidates and burnish their brands - which for some parties is all about the constitution. It would be relatively simple to run such a campaign (‘use all your preferences, but don’t vote for any nationalists’, or something similar), but we won’t be doing that. Indeed, SIU intends playing no part in the council campaigns.
Why isn’t SIU taking a position? Quite simply, because we believe local elections should be about local issues. Candidates who bang on about Brexit, or nuclear weapons, or UK policies, are unlikely to be focused properly on local issues It’s also important that our local representatives in Scotland are prepared to stand up for us against the Holyrood government if they need to. We don’t want to encourage local elections to be about constitutional division. In SIU, we want to return to when politics is about improving lives, and politicians use the powers which they have at the level at which they operate; not a Scotland dominated by divisive constitutional wrangling.
We hope people across Scotland and the UK will get involved in the local elections, even if it’s just making the effort to vote and have their voice heard. But as an organisation, SIU’s business is promoting Scotland’s place within the UK, not influencing the choices of local government, so we will not be participating directly in the council campaigns.
We will, of course, be continuing our pro-UK campaign throughout 2017 and beyond, using the resources funded by our supporters’ kind donations, and the time and effort of our committed volunteers - please keep an eye out for us on the streets and in the media. But for the council elections, we urge everyone to consider local issues, and vote for the best local candidates.
By Alastair Cameron, Executive Director, Scotland In Union