FORFAR Community Council’s vow to fight it out for the retention of the town’s common good fund has received the full backing of former Angus Councillor Ron Scrimgeour.
He reminds the decision makers that, in the 1970s when regionalisation took place, the legislators who gave common good resources legal protection when local government was reformed took the view common good funds and property were an essential part of local history and tradition, reconnecting local communities with their elected councillors.
He warned: “The argument is as valid now as it was then. Local identity was in danger of being swallowed up by larger political units and needed protection. Common good assets were earmarked as the legitimate property of the towns they had been donated and bequeathed to by local benefactors.”
Mr Scrimgeour (pictured), who served the Forfar Central ward from 2001 to 2007, explained the individual burghs in Angus were each distinct and unique in their history and cultural traditions.
“To put common good libraries, halls, common land and financial reserves into some common Angus pot, administered from the anonymous and remote Angus House complex on the outskirts of Forfar, goes completely against the spirit of common good property.
“Councillor Bob Spink is sounding a timely alarm bell that other councillors, particularly the six other independents, should heed. Forfar Community Council Chair Mrs Isobel Ross is absolutely correct in her reported comments that a raid on common good funds to shore up projects in areas without such assets is unacceptable.
“When I was an elected member, any issue that involved common good assets was subject to more scrutiny than any other council business by local councillors.
“All councillors from the burghs in question were invited to meetings with council staff to hear the proposals to either spend common good funds or improve and maintain common good property.
“The most immediate next step was for local councillors to bring the issue before the community council for information, guidance and direction. This approach reconnected local people to their local representatives and to the officers who usually had no direct involvement in the community.
“While local councillors had the final say on common good issues, the community council was a vital part of decision making and made the democratic process more relevant and immediate. That is a mark of true democracy and to reverse this established practice is a backward step.
“It is an unfortunate act of fate that some burghs do not have common good resources but that simply reflects the history, social and economic life of each burgh. Each burgh has unique assets and to put them in some local government bureaucratic blender in the interest of equity is both illogical and unfair.
“Would councillors and officers apply the same principal to other unique assets of a burgh? Should we legislate that Peter Pan was a son of Angus and not just Kirriemuir and move his statue to Forfar? Or re-brand all our museums as “Gateways to the Glens” and move the Seafest festival around each of the seven burghs whether they have a coastline or not? Obviously not, so why this attempted smash and grab over long-standing traditions and assets?
“If it is purely financial then Angus Council has many other areas of reckless spending to stop before trying to alter the course of history that created common good wealth in some areas and not in others. Those areas that have no common good fund were much smaller a hundred years ago when other burghs were industrial power houses with civic minded benefactors. Narrow-minded self interest by certain councillors and officers cannot change that.
“Finally, there was universal condemnation in Angus of the proposed move to bring all the police authorities under one Scotland-wide banner. The cry went up instantly that we would lose our local identity. It is hypocritical, therefore, for the same councillors to ignore the local element that makes common good resources and reserves firmly rooted in the burghs where they originated and where they should remain.”