New think tank research has suggested Scotland should create the position of mayor in towns and cities to give people ‘local heroes’ – but the big question is, would it work in Dundee?
According to former provosts and councillors in the city, it would be a pointless exercise and align directly with already elected officials.
For city residents, it’s an equally blasé attitude – but it didn’t stop the minds of city residents working as they thought of who may be good fits for the role.
What is the research?
The idea comes from independent think tank Reform Scotland, who urge the Scottish Government to open up new mayoral positions in the nation’s towns and cities.
The report, titled ‘Local Heroes: Why Scotland Needs Directly-Elected Mayors’, suggests that the creation of these roles in Scottish cities would lead to increased transparency and trust in local government.
Researchers are also claiming that elected mayors would enhance the economy and increase awareness of local government.
“This is a timely and well-prepared report from Reform Scotland. Scotland needs stronger voices across the country and more power devolved to local communities,” former First Minister Lord McConnell said.
“Directly elected mayors and more financial freedom might be the answers we need. It is time they were debated properly.”
‘Who should be mayor? What about Lorraine off the telly?’
Out on the streets, names such as Lorraine Kelly have already been thrown out by some Dundonians as potential mayoral candidates.
John Mitchell, 41, said: “I think Lorraine off the telly – Lorraine Kelly – I think that she would be a perfect candidate.
“She’s a Dundee United fan for a start and she knows Dundee, so I think she’d be a perfect candidate.
“She lived here for years – something like a mayor would be good for a big family place like Dundee.”
Others are still opposed to the idea of having a mayor in the city.
Kenny Mackinnon, a 57-year-old from the city centre, said: “I would have to ask, if you were having a mayor, whether that would take the place of the lord provost. That’s my first question.
“It doesn’t make too much sense to have two figureheads, I would need to know what kind of powers they have and I wouldn’t want them to be a politician, they would have to be independent.
“And what difference would a mayor have to a lord provost?”
Although sceptical, it didn’t stop Kenny suggesting a couple of potential candidates for the role.
He said: “The two people that spring to mind — and one’s not possible — would be Michael Marra — who’s no longer with us — and the other is Sheena Wellington.
“Both of them are well known to local Dundonians. Michael was a singer-songwriter, a West End guy.
“Sheena’s a musician and also an organiser of concerts in the Wellgate centre.
“But I’m pretty sure both of those, if they had the choice, would turn down the position.”
Others, such as 68-year-old Caroline Silkowski and 40-year-old Tahir Niazi, were even more opposed to the idea.
Caroline said: “I think we’ve got the lord provost and we’ve got a lot of MPs, MSPs and councillors so I really think it would be a waste of money to be honest.”
Tahir added: “I don’t think that we need a mayor in Dundee. Maybe it’s a good idea for big cities like London or Glasgow but I think that in Dundee we have the lord provost which is working fine.”
‘I always thought this suggestion was coming’
John Letford enjoyed an 11-year spell as the city’s lord provost — and feels the idea of a new role for a mayor doesn’t sit right.
The 86-year-old believes it could politicise a position which should be held by a non-partisan ambassador.
He said: “I was lord provost for many years and I enjoyed it immensely, but I always thought something like this — a new role like a mayor of Dundee — could be coming.
“I’m in my twilight years now and I may not live to see it, but it is inevitable in my mind due to the increased political nature of the landscape.
“When I was lord provost it was a civic role about serving the people. You met everyone both high and low — it wasn’t just about the politics.
“I’m concerned that a mayoral election could just make things more political.”
Jimmy Black, a former Coldside councillor, also expressed concerns about the value of the idea, saying that figures such as council leader John Alexander already do a similar job to a mayor.
He said: “You could say that John Alexander, as the leader of the current administration, has sort of done the mayor role.
“He’s very happy to be in public eye, active on social media, happy to be in the paper or even on the TV.
“I do have my own ideas on how we can improve the council and make it more transparent but in terms of a mayor, I’m not sure it’s needed.”