Town council revival could lead to tension

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New Scottish Borders Council convener Graham Garvie could be accused of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses with his call for the resurrection of burghs and town councils as vehicles for delivering better local government.

By definition, the rose-coloured glasses idiom refers to an upbeat outlook coloured by sentimentality. It makes for a pretty picture, but not necessarily an accurate one.

But the alternate view could be that such glasses can help the optimists among us look towards a new Utopia, screening out defeatist and negative perspectives.

So, in which camp does Councillor Garvie belong?

The problem with rose-tinted specs is that everything ends up the same colour – good and bad, useful and useless are all hard to tell apart.

Yes, there was much that was good about the days of town, burgh and district authorities. Local government was certainly more local right enough.

But there was too much rivalry – if one town had something, others had to have it too. As former council leader Drew Tulley points out, that’s how the Borders ended up with seven swimming pools it can ill-afford.

The reintroduction of burghs and town councils et al would not necessarily be guaranteed to lead to better services.

Decentralisation has cost implications and there is the danger of creating tensions between communities because of different levels of need and distribution of resources. And during a recession is perhaps not the most opportune time to be talking about introducing a hugely-expensive overhaul of Scottish local government.

Because that’s what it would have to be – a nationwide revolution, for the Borders could not go it alone.

Convener Garvie may fancy himself as a latter-day Robespierre, but we can’t see First Minister Alex Salmond dropping the guillotine on single-tier regional councils anytime soon.