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Excessive and unreasonable - the politics of the Scottish hit list

Midwinter, A.F. and Keating, M. and Taylor, P. (1983) Excessive and unreasonable - the politics of the Scottish hit list. Political Studies, 31 (3). pp. 394-417. ISSN 0032-3217

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The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act marks a major change in central-local relations in allowing selective intervention in the expenditure decisions of individual councils. The criteria for action, based upon the concept of 'excessive and unreasonable' expenditure are broadly drawn. In taking action against seven councils in 1981-2, the Scottish Office applied its own criteria inconsistently. The case against the councils lacked intellectual credibility and an alternative 'hit list' could as plausibly be produced. The councils' reactions and the exchanges with the Scottish Office show a varied pattern, with a minority stressing the principle of local autonomy. The Act has failed to achieve the objectives which central government appeared to have in mind. It has, instead, further eroded local autonomy and destabilized central-local relations in Scotland.