It’s not easy to read the runes just now, a week on from the local elections, but a new report from the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland may reveal a little of how we’re feeling. The ERS paper includes polling on how Scots view government and their role in it and, taken together with polling on party donors and businesses, it seems to show a deep disconnection with politics.

What the polling shows is that two-thirds of the people surveyed in Scotland (67%) feel they have little or no influence over decisions that affect their local community. Only five percent of respondents feel they have a lot of influence, and around a fifth (18%) said they had some influence.

The polling on some of the other factors that influence politics and decision-making was also revealing. Twenty-two per cent of Scots thought party donors had the most influence over public policy decisions and 19% think businesses and corporations have the most influence. Most strikingly of all, only seven per cent thought voters had the most influence.

Quite rightly, the ERS is troubled by these figures and suggests there’s a danger we think everything is just fine with democracy. They also suggest – and it’s something that’s long overdue for fixing – that any system of government put into place before the smart phone is likely to be sub-optimal. We should not be complacent, they say, that we have some sort of finished product in our democracy.

We could, of course, just carry on with the system we have at the moment, but are you really happy with what we’ve just been through in the elections? As the ERS points out, the inevitable presence of national parties in local elections means it becomes about central rather than local issues.

The solution, according to the ERS, is devolution out of Edinburgh but also devolution out of local councils as well and they lay out the details in their paper, which was written by ERS Scotland director Willie Sullivan. I spoke to Mr Sullivan about the plans the other day and it’s impressive how much work they’ve done on the nitty-gritty: an ERS team recently spent time in Dalmellington in Ayrshire for example speaking to people about how the ideas might work in practice.

Their idea, essentially, is that a new framework would be created that would allow communities to set up a representative body of paid volunteers to oversee the running of their town, village or neighbourhood. Small citizen assemblies would also produce a four-year plan and the councillors would be appointed and judged on how well they are implementing the plan.

The problems we're seeking to solve here are real. Not only are many voters disengaged (look at the turn-out at the elections), the weak system we have at the moment is an ideal breeding ground for authoritarianism, nationalism and extremism (just look at the kind of people who dominate politics if you don’t believe me).

Hopefully, the ideas that the ERS has come up with can be the start of tackling the issue - and I’ll certainly be writing about their work in Dalmellington whenever I can. But I’m not necessarily optimistic. As Willie Sullivan points out, Scotland as a devolved nation effectively inherited the genetic code of the British state and has always been highly centralised.

One big positive is that many people do seem to be up for change. More than 40% of the Scots the ERS spoke to said they would be willing to give up some free time to take part in new community bodies and it would be a helpful contrast to the system we’ve just been through: “send a message to Nicola Sturgeon”, “send a message to Boris Johnson”. What has any of that got to do with local government? What has any of that got to do with the bins?

The problem, as the ERS points out, is that local politics has become a victim of a creeping nationalisation – indeed, the very idea of a national local manifesto is an oxymoron. Better instead to resist the power from the top. Better to have power pooled upwards rather than exercised downwards. And better to acknowledge that the creation of the Scottish Parliament was an important step in bringing power closer to the people but it was only a step. It was only the first one.

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