I will not speak for them.
My party welcomes the opportunity to take part in the consultations. Will the Secretary of State categorically state that the Government believe that local government is more than just a collection of structures and functions? It has a fundamentally important role in providing local communities with an effective, democratic voice. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure me that that will not be prejudiced in the course of the consultations?
It seems nonsensical to commence consultation on determining the structure of local government when we have just concluded the consultation process on finance. No doubt after that we shall consider the functions of local government. It would be much better to have a more coherent, all-in approach to the reform of local government.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will take cognisance of any submissions on the system of elections for the structures of the new authorities and that proportional representation will be part of that system?
The tone of the right hon. Gentleman's statement is quite different from the statements for England and Wales. He appears to be more inflexible about single-tier authorities. If a case is made for local variations in different parts of Scotland, will he assure us that he will give urgent consideration to that approach in the course of the consultation?