Experts call for abolition of Scottish quangos

8 Feb 10
Nearly all of Scotland’s quangos should be abolished, a leading think-tank suggests today
By David Scott

9 February 2010

Nearly all of Scotland’s quangos should be abolished, a leading think-tank suggests today.

Reform Scotland says the quasi non-governmental organisations, which account for more than 40% of all public spending, should either have their functions brought back ‘in-house’ to government or be replaced by fully autonomous public bodies.

In a report, Democratic power, the think-tank states: ‘Too much political power in Scotland is currently exercised by quangos which operate in a “no-man’s-land” where they are neither fully democratically accountable nor fully independent of government.’

It adds: ‘This creates a lack of openness and accountability which is not conducive to good governance.

‘This needs to change because the power exercised by government in our democracy derives from the consent of the people and should be exercised in their interests.

‘It is difficult for people to judge whether that is the case when the current way in which government carries out its functions blurs accountability.’

Under Reform Scotland’s radical proposals, bodies such as the development agency Scottish Enterprise and the tourism quango VisitScotland would disappear.

Other quangos such as the National Museums of Scotland would become fully independent organisations, free to negotiate their own financial settlements with the Scottish Government.
Health boards could be turned into 14 area-based independent mutual organisations known as health commissioning co-operatives. These would be owned by their members and have direct patient representation, the report suggests.

Geoff Mawdsley, director of Reform Scotland and one of the authors of the report, , claims that attempts to stem the growth of quangos had been ‘piecemeal’ and lacking in any approach of principle.

He said: ‘One of the key disadvantages of handing over so much power and influence to non-elected quangos is that, when something goes wrong, ministers are given a way out. In other words they can shift responsibility and when that happens democracy automatically suffers.

’Our remedy for this problem would mean that all quangos, apart from tribunals such as the Children’s Panel, would cease to exist altogether.’

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