Alex Massie

Localism Is Barred From Your Local

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One of the things that's happened as a consequence of devolution is that sometimes Westminster finds itself following Holyrood. It's almost as if the latter has actually become a mini-laboratory of democracy. That's as it should be. Alas, the reality is that it's more of a laboratory for managerialism. Perhaps, one bright day, this will produce some good ideas that Westminster will feel like copying. At the moment? Not so much.

So it's no surprise that David Cameron seems to be moving towards copying some of the SNP's ideas on "combatting" the problem of cheap booze and hooliganism. Minimum prices for alcohol would seem to be one idea Cameron is happy to pinch from the SNP. The merits of the idea are neither here nor there, what's interesting is what it says about Cameron's vision for and of government.

Because where's the bleedin' post-bureacratic age in any of this? Nowhere to be seen. Where is the Tories' much-ballyhooed commtiment to localism? Abandoned, it would seem and not even sidelined in favour of anything good.

It's precisely because the licensing of premises to serve alcohol and the price they serve it at is, in some respects, a trivial issue that it matters. It demonstrates that the Tories commitment to decentralisation is, shall we say, suspect. All of this, in any case, can more sensibly be handled by local authorities. They may well make decisions that aggravate voters but if so then voters can have their say at the subsequent election.

That might well result in very different policies on booze in different parts of the country. This would be helped too, of course, is local councils were able to set and collect their own taxes. Cameron, however, seems to think that this is (yet another) problem that Westminster alone can solve.

I'd quite like to be wrong about this, but there lurks the rather disturbing thought that anyone who really, truly, hugely believes in the Tories commitment to localism is, well, a cheap date.

[Hat-tips: Adam Smith Institute & Liberal Vision]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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