The Christie Commission Report

Posted: 18 July 2011, in Blog

The Christie Commission Report, the Edinburgh Trams and Scottish Futurology

Well, did you read it? Notwithstanding the routine sub Paxmanesque performance of Brewer interviewing Christie on Newsnicht, my reaction to the Christie Commission Report is largely one of “where’s the beef”?

As long as public services are equated with the public sector the road to reform in Scotland will be long and arduous – despite the fine rhetoric contained within the report itself. Checking out some of the submissions, I liked what Brodies the Solicitors researched as to why local authorities find it so hard to change their thinking/ways. It seems that LA CEOs and Senior Councillors are worried about the complexity of new governance arrangements, the potential loss of openness and accountability (sic), resistance from staff or unions and possibly a lack of experience in working outside their “ken”.

Now call me an old cynic but the forces of change are up against it here. There is a democratic deficit in much of Scottish life and the Edinburgh Trams fiasco exemplifies that perfectly. This scandal implicates everyone who had a hand in it and is a perfect example of why change is required. The skill set of officials and the standard of local politician is not fit for purpose. What we need are politicians and officials who are “up for change” and prepared to use any expertise to deliver it –whether that is from the private sector, social economy or public sector.

So what are social entrepreneurs meant to do with this report? I suggest that we use our brains and “follow the money” especially private sector and private consumer money.

The problems facing our public services are not unique to Scotland but I see no evidence of any innovative thinking because the debate is owned and managed by too many vested interests. Innovation can only come from niche players, nimble social entrepreneurs and other mavericks who will challenge orthodoxies and come up with ideas – from the daft to the great. What is required is access to non state money and non state business resources to develop these innovations because all the State will offer us is a weary “partnership” with us being the junior partners in perpetuity, when what we should be saying is that government is part of the problem as well as part (but not all) of the solution.

In order to get this money flowing to us we need to revisit membership led organisations open to Scots who want to improve their own lives, their family’s lives and the lives of their communities. Membership should be an active social and economic self-help relationship and whether these organisations are co-ops, new style mutuals or something else I’ll leave to the lawyers. What I do know is that our “membership” of local communities controlled by the State fails to “do the business”.  With an ageing demographic we desperately need to change the way we organise our society. What we need are new social movements to provide democratic and accountable services – go off and read Social Enterprise in Anytown by John Pearce and Alan Kay if you are looking for innovative thinking, analysis and detail – and if you want to sleep well, stop watching Newsnicht!


NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition or endorse any political position.