Letters today expressing anger about consultations on health provision in Angus will have struck a chord with many readers who have sought to be, as the Curriculum for Excellence puts it, “Responsible citizens” and “Effective contributors”.
Consultations, whether by the NHS, the Scottish Government or councils, have often proved to be no more than sops for public engagement in decisions which have already been made, or are deemed to have become inevitable.
Such fake consultations are irresistible for politicians needing to dodge responsibility for “difficult” decisions. The latest last week in Fife was the announcement by the Convenor of Cowdenbeath Area Committee Councillor Linda Erskine that negotiations to give St Andrews University a 40-year lease at Lochore Meadows Country Park were on hold “until we hear the findings of a public consultation exercise”.
The “exercise” was a very thin and poorly attended presentation at Benarty Centre on August 22, run by St Andrews University, hardly a neutral party in a deal which appears to observers to be done and dusted.
The key question of who decides on whether St Andrews gets an exclusive 40-year lease on a chunk of the loch – Fife Council officers via delegated authority or elected members of Fife Council in full and open consultation with the communities they represent – was left unanswered by Cllr Erskine.