Lesley Riddoch’s State of Scottish Democracy lecture

Jonathon Shafi, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser

Posted on the 28th September 2023

Thank you to everyone who made it along to hear author and broadcaster, Lesley Riddoch, present the second of our annual ERS State of Scottish Democracy lecture.  

We are pleased to publish a video of the lecture today, and hope you enjoy viewing it as much as we did on the night itself. You can also download the slides of her informative and inspiring talk.

The ERS Scotland State of Scottish Democracy Lecture 2023

This year, the event set out to explore key questions around the theme of local democracy in Scotland. Is Scottish democracy healthy at a local and national level? How can decision-making and debate be enhanced? How can communities have more of a say in how they are run? What examples might we look towards. And how does Scotland compare to other European nations? 

Lesley Riddoch provides data, statistics and hard evidence for her ideas. But these are also combined with real world examples of people taking power into their own hands to create sustainable and empowered communities. As she noted in a column in The Scotsman previewing the event:  

“Over the last 25 years, thousands of Scottish citizens in 350 community trusts have taken over everything from islands and schools to hydro-electric dams, petrol pumps, affordable housing, restaurants, mental health services and creches. They’ve done it without formal qualifications, prior experience or long-term funding.”  

Drawing on Nordic examples, she continues: 

“Norway’s small councils double up portfolios, cooperate with neighbours and hire Education Directors who are also part-time teachers. They don’t have highly-paid officials. Home lies a walk not two day’s drive away, so council meetings are held in the evenings, day-jobs can continue and councillors aren’t paid. Poorer councils are supported by central transfers and very small councils cooperate with neighbours which allows some challenge on ideas and the best ways of working, something private outsourcing companies and large ‘monopoly’ councils do not entertain.

These lectures are part of an ongoing discussion about the importance of democracy, and of the evolution of democratic institutions that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. In the Scottish context, there is much to be done to ensure we develop a thriving democracy now and into the future. 

The State of Scottish Democracy lecture is now fixed as an annual event. So if you missed the last two, look out for next year’s. Enjoy the video, and thank you once again to all who registered interest.  

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