A NATIONALIST MSP has sparked a row after launching an outspoken attack on councils, claiming that those who want to transfer more powers to local authorities want to "bring down" Holyrood.


Joan McAlpine blamed school closures, poor planning decisions and problems in A&E on local authorities, despite the Scottish Parliament having ultimate control in the areas.

She said it was a fact that councils were better funded and in some ways more powerful than Holyrood, pointing out that unlike the Scottish Government they were allowed to borrow money.

However, the comments contradict those made by a spokesman for Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown this week, who welcomed a summit in Glasgow which will explore how power can be decentralised and transferred to British cities.

A source within COSLA, which represents Scottish councils, accused Ms McAlpine of launching "a unprovoked and totally unjustified attack" on local authorities.

Ms McAlpine, writing in a national newspaper, said: "The anti-SNP parties want to 'devolve power from Holyrood' and had this written into the Smith Commission.

"They do this to bring down our parliament - because it is popular and the vast majority of Scots want it to have greater powers."

She added that she believed the Scottish public trusted Holyrood more than local councils, and said the parliament had a stronger democratic mandate as national elections attracted a higher turnout.

"Councils are often responsible for the decisions that anger voters most," she said. "School closures, class sizes, poor planning and potholes can be traced to the town chambers.

"Problems in A&E are mainly because councils are slow to sort the community support packages needed by older, frail people. That means they stay in hospital so fewer beds are free."

The comments are likely to spark anger from local authorities, which have been forced to make huge cuts to their budgets in recent years. The SNP won the 2012 local government elections, taking almost a third of first preference votes and 425 seats.

The SNP signed up to the Smith Commission, while a spokesman for Mr Brown said this week: "We have consistently supported further devolution from London, and have an excellent record of devolving powers to the cities and regions of Scotland.

"For example, we removed ring-fencing, freeing up local government budgets... As opposed to political point scoring, we will continue to seek to work positively with Scotland's seven cities."

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has said that he supports the devolution of powers outlined in the Smith Commission to councils. The Scottish Green Party, which campaigned for a Yes vote in the referendum, also supports decentralisation of power.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian and local government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: "As we prepare for long-overdue cross-party talks on reform of local taxation I am surprised to see these comments. Of course local communities have been bearing the brunt of the SNP's centralising tendencies for some time. We've seen the loss of local fire, police and court services along with a council tax freeze that benefits the wealthiest the most and is forcing local authorities to start cutting frontline services.

"The SNP need to show confidence in our communities. The current system of local taxation is unfair and unsustainable. Scottish Greens will continue to put forward constructive suggestions to improve it."

Michael Cook, an independent councillor in the Borders and vice-president of COSLA, said: "This is a cheap shot. She seems to have taken a swipe at everyone and everything except herself and her own party. If she wants the throw stones, I would question what mandate she has as a list MSP and how confident she is that people voted for her. I know that people voted for me specifically and she can't say that.

"The evidence has always tended to show that people have regard for local councillors but not national politicians. I certainly haven't seen any new evidence to the contrary and she hasn't cited any.

"The council tax accounts for 18 per cent of the money we spend, for the rest we are absolutely dependent on Scottish parliamentarians. The suggestion that we are starving people of resources is ludicrous. She is lauding the council tax freeze but even within the SNP, thinking people now realise it's unsustainable.

"She clearly doesn't understand some of the things she is talking about. In the NHS for example we are talking about health and social care partnerships, it's a joint problem and there needs to be understanding of that."