The referendum Scotland has most to be grateful for took place in 1994 and was organised by Strathclyde Regional Council. Its purpose was to send a message to the Tory-run Scottish Office that water privatisation was seriously unwanted.

There was a 70 per cent turnout and 97 per cent opposition. The Tories backed off and Scottish Water remained within public ownership. Having no obligation to leech dividends to greedy investors, it has continued to provide an efficient public service at moderate cost.

Mhairi Black MP, for whom Scottish political history is not a strong point, wrongly claimed that the public status of Scottish Water is attributable to devolution. The less comfortable reality for those of her ilk is that it is actually a memorial to days when Scotland had strong local authorities, led by people of stature.

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The water referendum was Strathclyde’s last hurrah. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994 was awaiting rubber-stamp and by 1996, the powerful regions and generally successful two-tier system were gone. Scottish councils are now a pale shadow, yet it is the tier of government that affects many of us most directly.

Local government should be a noble concept. It provides basic social infrastructure and also the great historic enablers for reducing disadvantage through collective provision; not just schools and colleges but libraries, parks, swimming pools, leisure centres, art galleries and so on.

These have been proud gateways to equal opportunity yet we live in an era which appears to hold them in low regard. Amenities and services which played critical parts in our own upbringings are increasingly denied to the current generation.

How can it be justified, to take one example, that 11 swimming pools in Scotland have either recently closed or are facing imminent closure, yet we have the highest drowning rates in the UK? Scottish Swimming describes it “as a crisis for communities across Scotland”. I would also call it a disgrace.

Instead of encouraging civic pride and allowing local flowers to bloom, the words “council” and “cuts” have become inseparable. For the past decade, as verified by the Scottish Parliament’s research centre, local authorities were whipping-boy on a completely disproportionate scale within the Scottish Government’s budget priorities.

Now they and SNP-run CoSLA are to consult on council tax bands, to make the better-off pay more. Increases of 22 per cent are predicted and it is delusional to suppose that most of those affected would be grandees living in mansions as opposed to households with decent living standards already feeling pressures on every other front.

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For over a decade, middle-class votes were bought with a council tax freeze which helped debilitate services while doing nothing for the least well off.

Now, at a time of maximum pressure from other sources – mortgages and energy costs among them – huge increases for these same households are proposed. Talk about mixed messaging!

The background is that the promise to reform council funding has been consistently consigned to the “too politically dangerous” tray to be replaced with cuts and blame-passing when these took effect.

Tinkering with bands will produce its own anomalies without addressing the basic question of political respect for local government.

Today’s council tax was basically cobbled together 30 years ago to replace the poll tax. In that context, it is worth remembering how the poll tax came about.

Contrary to one of the great urban myths of Scottish politics (doubtless imbibed by Mhairi Black) it was not a laboratory experiment, dreamt up in Whitehall and visited upon the Scottish people.

Rather, it was a panicked response to protests from legions of Tory voters against a property revaluation which was a statutory requirement in Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK.

Faced with electoral insurrection, the Scottish Tories needed something and the poll tax, which was lying on the shelf of a right-wing think tank, was dusted down and implemented – entirely made in Scotland.

The astonishing point is that, having seen the response here, Mrs Thatcher pressed ahead with it in England.

However, it is equally remarkable that its hasty replacement – the council tax – has remained largely untouched for so long.

Once again, the driver has been political fear of radical reform that would go beyond tinkering but would combine goals of fairness and also the enhanced role of local government.

Instead, not only has funding been cut but key areas of responsibility have been eroded and the ability to make a difference in one’s own community taken away from councillors.

Unless all of that is challenged and re-assessed, the downward spiral will continue and it is the most disadvantaged who will pay the price for services and amenities that councils can no longer afford.

I have also found it a bit odd that nobody has shown interest in revisiting the question of local authority boundaries.

At the time of the 1994 Act, it was a point of great controversy that a fair bit of Tory gerrymandering had gone into separating the prosperous suburbs, particularly around Glasgow, from the cities leaving them deprived of crucial income. Is that no longer a consideration?

The list of relevant issues goes on. There is also the whole question of business rates which contribute to the dismal state of town and city centres and are increasingly seen as a deterrent to investment, not least because they are so much higher than in the rest of the UK.

Put all these together and there is a strong case for a full-blown review of Scottish local government, its structure and funding in the age of devolution, comparable to the Wheatley Commission half a century ago.

The argument against that, from an SNP perspective, is that it would probably recommend the reinvigoration and empowerment of local government as being in Scotland’s best interests.

And that would never do.