THE Scottish Tories have backed plans for directly-elected lord provosts in super-regions across the country, The Herald on Sunday can reveal.

Professor Adam Tomkins, a senior member of Ruth Davidson’s shadow cabinet, said the figureheads should take charge of the multi-billion pound city deals which he believes lack accountability and transparency.

However, Labour communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said: "We don’t need a new expensive tier of bureaucracy, we need an end to austerity and the unacceptable levels of cuts to vital local services."

England has pioneered the concept of directly-elected mayors who wield substantial powers over law and order, transport and economic development.

Many of the mayors cover a single council area, but some span more than one local authority and are influential regional power brokers.

Sadiq Khan serves over 8.5 million people in London, while Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester has a mandate to represent nearly three million citizens.

However, the idea of elected mayors has never taken off in Scotland, which has 32 councils.

Tomkins, whose shadow cabinet post includes communities, has backed the direct election of a some lord provosts, a post similar in theory to a mayor.

He believes the change is necessary due to the increasing number of pan-local authority funding initiatives being funded by the UK and Scottish Governments.

The most high-profile project is the Glasgow City Region City Deal, which covers eight local authorities and is being funded to the tune of £1 billion by councils and governments.

Similarly, the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal comprises six local authorities and is worth over £1.1bn, while the Tay Cities Deal is worth around £350m.

Tomkins, a Glasgow MSP, said: “My view is that city deals need appropriate structures of accountability and delivery.

“Everybody knows that one of the things Andy Burnham is responsible for in Greater Manchester is delivering on the Greater Manchester City Deal. And everybody knows Andy Street is responsible for that in the West Midlands. But who is responsible for it in Glasgow?

“The answer is the people responsible for these decisions are a cabinet of 8 local authority leaders, around which there is no publicity.

“There has never been serious interrogation of anybody, by anybody, as to why these are the 21 projects we are running with [in Glasgow].”

Tomkins said the solution lies with the ballot box: “The model we need is city regions and we need directly-elected provosts for city regions.”

He added: “There is nothing like the transparency and accountability around it, [which] there would be if there was a single point person whose principal function would be to be the senior executive in charge of the successful delivery of a £1bn investment.”

He said he supported the Scottish Parliament passing enabling legislation for elected lord provosts, which would be followed by four pilots in greater Glasgow, Edinburgh & Lothians, Tayside, as well as Aberdeen & Shire.

“We need somebody to be a champion [for these regions], or a tsar, which is a very Blairite word. Somebody who can stand up to Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay on the one hand, and Theresa May and Philip Hammond on the other hand, and demand resources and respect.”

Although he said that Mr Burnham, a Labour politician, is “not so much to my taste”, he added:

“If you listen to Radio 4, when there is a Manchester story, you don’t get a Manchester MP interviewed, you get Andy Burnham.

“I like the fact that Westminster and Whitehall are no longer the sole epicentres of British politics. You can make a career for yourself outside of the Westminster bubble. Ruth [Davidson] is a great example of that, as is of course Nicola. So will these mayors be, if they are successful.”

He said the relationship between councils and elected provosts would have to be “worked out”, but said local authorities would not be replaced: “I am not in favour of creating another tier of government.”

Mr Tomkins added that the pilot projects could last for five to 10 years: “If it didn’t work, get rid of it.”

The Scottish Government and Cosla, the umbrella group for councils, have launched a local governance review, which will ensure “communities have more say about how public services in their area are run”.

The website states: “The Local Governance Review will consider how powers, responsibilities and resources are shared across national and local spheres of government, and with communities.”

SNP MSP Shona Robison said: "The Tories are simply raising this issue to divert attention from their broken promises on funding – they have sold Tayside short by £50 million, and now need to say whether they are reneging on their pledge to match SNP funding on all city and region deals?

“As for directly-elected provosts, the Tories have been going on about this for 20 years. They put the proposal in their last two manifestos, and were rejected by Scottish voters.”

"We're putting greater powers into the hands of local communities already, and through our Local Governance Review we are looking at how more powers and resources could benefit them further."

A spokesperson for Cosla, the umbrella group for councils, said: “The Review of Local Governance is currently inviting ideas about decision making across all public services in Scotland, and about how powers can be shared between national and local government and communities. All proposals are welcome as part of that process.”