OPEN DEBATES in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are being arranged to thrash out the ICE's response to devolution.
Members will be invited to contribute to a debate that came to light last November when the two Scottish local associations made a joint statement claiming that the 'ability of the institution to consult with Parliament and influence matters of direct interest to its members will be diminished by Scottish devolution unless a more permanent presence is established in Scotland.'
The meetings, to take place in Northern Ireland on 8 February, and Scotland in March and Wales in April - were set up at the first meeting of the ICE's devolution working party.
Senior vice president Professor George Fleming, who chaired the working party, said: 'I want to hear the views of members involved. I hope we will strengthen local activity in this area and improve our communication with government.'
This week's first meeting of the working party agreed to consider how devolution would change the relationship between Great George Street and affect local associations. The working party chaired by Fleming, consists of five council members and five local association representatives. It will report its findings to Executive Committee on 18 May and to Council in June.
Broad agreement about how to develop the ICE response to devolution already existed, claimed Fleming. He said: 'The unanimous view was that devolution would lead to a greater drive in the Institution to communicate with government.
'Closer dialogue between local associations and their devolved parliaments is inevitable. We have the opportunity through this working party to develop this in the right way.'
Fleming's comments were echoed by Dr Gary Pender of Glasgow University, representing West of Scotland. He said: 'The working party started off on the right foot to develop something beneficial to Scottish members. We hope to appoint a development officer to build links with the new Scottish parliament. The meeting was generally in favour of this but we understand that we have to be patient. The idea must be considered for all three regions where power is being devolved.'