The Midlothian Trust Challenge

Monday July 18th 2022

Ross Laird Lib Dems GE17

Written by Ross Laird, local coordinator for the Scottish Lib Dems in Midlothian

Trust is a word we don’t often associate with politics. However, few words could have been more central to Boris Johnson’s downfall. And it’s important, not just on a national and international scale, but also at a local level too. Post-Covid, we also have a trust challenge in Midlothian that needs to be addressed.

For all his bluster about getting the job done, nobody believed Boris Johnson in the end. He has tarnished the reputation of government and of politics as a whole. For the sake of the whole country, he should leave office with immediate effect but it’s also a timely reminder of the importance of trust.

Trust is also central to local communities. It is the cornerstone of our communities. Trust in our neighbours. Trust in those delivering our local services. And, of course, trust in local politics. Trust is part and parcel of our political system, but also of our daily lives.

On 13th July the OECD launched its annual Trust Survey. Most recently, the OECD has published more in-depth reports looking at trust in political institutions in Norway, Finland and Korea. One of the binding elements of trust is that people in these countries, which have reliable, open institutions, have faith in their public institutions to deliver.

During Covid-19, our trust in public services have been under pressure. Even in highly effective countries like Finland and Norway, there is still a disconnect between the performance of local services and accountability and openness. There is also a need for better user experiences, particularly through better use of technology, and a need to prioritise and address the major societal challenges.

Here in Midlothian, we have seen communities come together during Covid-19. This gives a good building block for encouraging participation by citizens in shaping and influencing the delivery of vital public services.

As Liberal Democrats, we put our trust implicitly in local democracy and local communities. We are a bottom-up party that believes that local issues are best dealt with locally and that local services are best delivered by those who know best on the ground.

We’ve opposed the SNP’s centralising, cost-cutting approach from the outset. From the closure of police stations through to the continued drain on local authority funding. Instead, we trust local government and key service providers to look after their own services and ensure that they meet the needs of the local communities they serve.

Unfortunately, over successive years many of our valued public services have been whittled away. Local government has been starved of cash and now our childcare and education services face ever-growing cutbacks that will make it near-impossible to deliver the range of services we previously enjoyed.

As we enter a new debate on trust and the value of our public services, now is the time for us to put trust back into the heart of our communities. We need to create open dialogue and consultations on the shape of future public services. Trust our local communities to make the right choices, enable local service providers to deliver and fund them appropriately.

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