First Minister, Alex Salmond, closed the 2012 COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Conference at St Andrews with a tribute to its retiring president, Pat Watters.
The First Minister honoured Mr Watters’ 11 years as head of Scotland’s local authority body, describing local government as ‘essential to the quality of life in all our communities’ and thanking him for his ‘huge service; to the nation.
The text of Mr Salmond’s address was:
‘Local government is essential to the quality of life in all of our communities, and this is the last COSLA annual conference at which Pat Watters will be president.
‘The eleven years of his tenure have been momentous times for Scotland and Scottish local government.
‘During that time Pat has been instrumental in the successful transition from first past the post elections to single transferable voting. He has also been heavily involved in far-reaching initiatives which will have a long-lasting and beneficial impact on Scottish public life – for example, co-chairing the Community Planning Partnership and serving on the Christie Commission.
‘He has nurtured or mentored younger people making their way in local government, of all parties. Derek Mackay, the Minister for Local Government, greatly appreciated Pat’s support and help during his time in local government, and I am sure there are many others who would speak in the same way.
‘Pat has never sought parliamentary office. In that sense, he is one of a particular and much valued breed of public servants – Jim McCabe springs to mind as another. Although they would have prospered at Holyrood or Westminster, they have instead committed themselves to local government and in doing so, they have performed a huge service to their local areas and to the nation.
‘Marking the end of his time in office is a fitting way to bring this year’s annual conference to a close. I wish Pat and his wife Marilyn all the best for the future.’
It may be that Pat Watters has also presided over Scottish local government’s collaborative activity at a time that may prove to have been its last grasp of its traditional power.
Whatever Scotland does in the independence referendum in the Autumn of 2014, moving toward far greater self government within a federalist UK or into full independence, Scotland will not be able to sustain the economic burden of its inflated public sector nor the fiscal waste of duplication that is the current case in a country with a modest population.
Change will have to come and Mr Watters’ 11 year period of office may prove to be the last of the grand old days.