Reform Scotland believes that the increased use of quasi governmental bodies has eroded democracy with too much political power exercised by quangos operating in a ‘no man’s land’ where they are neither fully democratically accountable nor fully independent of government.
Although previous and current administrations have pledged to cut the number of quangos, these approaches have been piecemeal and lacking in any approach of principle. As a result, they have ultimately led to new quangos continuing to be created and staffing levels rising. No political party has come up with a strategy that achieves the kind of drastic reduction needed to restore transparency and accountability to the political process.
‘Democratic Power’ argues that this pattern has to change and concludes that all 115 quangos, apart from tribunals such as the Children’s Panel system, should cease to exist altogether. Instead, they should either have their functions brought back ‘in-house’ to government or be replaced by fully-autonomous, independent bodies which could enter into an open and transparent contractual agreement with government providing the necessary funding. This shift should lead to greater scrutiny of the functions being performed.
There should also be a presumption in favour of functions being performed by local authorities, where appropriate, to ensure accountability to local communities.
These recommendations would not only introduce greater clarity into the political process in Scotland but would also enhance the accountability of politicians to the electorate for their actions by forcing government to be open about what they were trying to achieve and how they proposed to achieve it.
* Reform Scotland has received correspondence from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland highlighting that the £309million figure the Scottish Government published on its National Public Bodies Directory for the organisation’s expenditure for 2008-09 was wrong. The Scottish Government has now re-published the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland’s expenditure as £308,535.