Anas Sarwar plans for ‘metro mayors’ in cities like Aberdeen

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

ANAS Sarwar has proposed introducing English-style “metro mayors” for Scotland as he aims to move power out of Holyrood.

The Scottish Labour leader said he was “exploring” the idea of directly elected regional figureheads for regions like Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

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Labour on both sides of the border has been trumpeting the perceived success of the former cabinet minister Andy Burnham as mayor of Greater Manchester.

The Conservatives also credit their metro mayors in Birmingham and Teeside for bringing in investment to their communities.

Mr Sarwar argues that directly elected mayors with powers like Burnham’s could reverse what he sees as SNP centralisation.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he accused the SNP of undermining local government and of weakening regional institutions as it concentrated power in Edinburgh.

Sarwar said: “I think one of the hard lessons we have had to learn in Scotland is that devolution was never about sucking powers out of local government, and centralising all power at Holyrood.

“We have got to push power out of Holyrood; that’s transport powers, economic powers, powers to create local partnerships between local authorities. One area we want to explore is metro mayors. I think it has worked really well in England.”

Scotland’s eight regional councils were scrapped nearly 30 years ago and replaced by 32 single-tier local authorities. The country has never had directly elected mayors or provosts.

Some Scottish local authorities have formed loose city-regions — focused on Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee — and try to liaise with each other on strategic planning and economic growth.

Sarwar acknowledged that any such scheme had to help voters who live on the edge of cities as well as inside them.

He said: “The surrounding areas need to feel the benefits of, whether it’s a city region deal, or any metro mayor process — every part of those communities have to feel the benefits.”

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