Scotland Election 2016

Holyrood election campaigns focus on local government

leaders collage

Local government and the economy have been the key topics for Scotland's politicians in a busy day on the Holyrood campaign trail.

Party leaders discussed whether there should be a review of the number of councils and health boards in Scotland after the SNP manifesto pledged to "look again" at how local services are structured.

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP

Questioned on whether she would look at cutting the number of councils in Scotland as part of a planned review, Nicola Sturgeon said she would "not rule anything out".

The SNP leader said: "The provision of our public services in terms of structures and governance in Scotland is changing. We now have new partnerships which bring health and local government together, so we've got to make sure the overall structure and governance reflects that change and the other changes under way.

"Structural change is less important that substantive changes - but you have to make sure the structures you have don't get in the way of those substantive changes."

Visiting a cider brewery in Dunbar, Ms Sturgeon set out a range of measures a re-elected SNP government would take to boost the rural economy, which she said was "key to Scotland's long-term success".

Kezia Dugdale, Labour

Kezia Dugdale said there would be "no reference" to local government reorganisation in Labour's manifesto, saying her focus was more on devolving powers from Holyrood to councils and communities.

Ms Dugdale said: "That's the way to enhance local democracy and improve what happens at a local government level.

"We would do that for example around skills policy, where we can match the needs of young unemployed people with the job opportunities in any given community."

Campaigning at a housing site in Ravenscraig, the Scottish Labour leader said she would use Holyrood's new powers to support first-time buyers, and pledged to have 60,000 new houses built across the next term.

Ruth Davidson, Conservatives

Image copyright Ruth Davidson / Twitter

Ms Davidson said the Tories had long argued that many "back-room functions" of councils could be shared, but said she did not support Ms Sturgeon's review.

The Scottish Conservative leader said: "We don't see the need at the moment to have a wholesale review of local authorities.

"We don't think that's good for service provision, we don't think it's good for people, to change the number of councils we have in Scotland, but we do want to see closer working between them.

Campaigning at Ace Winches in Turiff, Ms Davidson promoted her policies to support business, including a freeze in rates and additional funding for technical training.

Willie Rennie, Lib Dems

Willie Rennie said it was "typical" of the SNP to try to "hoover up powers into Edinburgh".

The Scottish Lib Dem leader said: "What we need to be doing is not meddling around with the boundaries of councils. That's a distraction. What we should be doing is pushing powers right back down into communities."

Campaigning in Kirkwall, Mr Rennie also attacked the SNP for "paying lip service" to the challenges facing island communities.

He said the Lib Dems would give families and businesses help with ferry fares and restore discounts for air travel for business passengers, channel extra money to farmers and ensure every home had high-speed broadband.

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