Local government in Scotland
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Local government in Scotland is organised through 32 unitary authorities consisting of councillors elected every four years by registered voters in each of the council areas.
Councils receive the majority of their funding from the Scottish Government, through Aggregate External Finance (AEF). AEF consists of three parts: Revenue Support Grants, Non-Domestic Rates, and Income and Specific Grants. The level of central government support for each authority is determined by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, currently John Swinney MSP, and is distributed by the Finance and Central Services Department of the Scottish Government. Councils obtain additional income through the Council Tax, that the council itself sets
Scottish councils co-operate through, and are represented collectively by, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
Between 1890 and 1975 local government in Scotland was organised with county councils (including four counties of cities) and various lower-level units. Between 1890 and 1929, there were parish councils and town councils, but with the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929, the functions of parish councils were passed to larger district councils and a distinction was made between large burghs (i.e. those with a population of 20,000 or more) and small burghs. This system was further refined by the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947.
In 1975, legislation passed by the Conservative government of Edward Heath (1970-1974) introduced a system of two-tier local government in Scotland (see Regions of Scotland), divided between large Regional Councils and smaller District Councils. The only exceptions to this were the three Island Councils, Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney which had the combined powers of Regions and Districts. The Conservative government of John Major (1990-1997) decided to abolish this system and merge their powers into new unitary authorities. The new councils vary widely in size — some are the same as counties, such as Clackmannanshire, some are the same as former districts, such as Inverclyde and some are the same as the former regions, such as Highland. The changes took effect in 1996 with shadow councillors elected in 1995 to oversee the smooth transition of control.
Governance and administration
The power invested in local authorities is administered by elected councillors. There are currently 1,222, each paid a part-time salary for the undertaking of their duties. In total, there are 32 unitary authorities, the largest being the City of Glasgow with more than 600,000 inhabitants, the smallest, Orkney, with fewer than 20,000 people living there.
Councillors are subject to a Code of Conduct instituted by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and enforced by the Standards Commission for Scotland. If a person believes that a councillor has broken the code of conduct they make a complaint to the Office of the Chief Investigating Officer (CIO). The CIO makes a determination on whether there is a need for an investigation, and then whether or not to refer the matter to the Standards Commission.
Each council elects a Convenor and Depute Convenor to chair meetings of the Council and to act as a figurehead for the area. In the four city councils in Scotland - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee - the Convenor is called a Lord Provost, whilst in other councils the council may choose the title given to the Convenor. Most councils use the term ' Provost'.
The office of Provost or Convenor is roughly equivalent to that of a Mayor in other parts of the United Kingdom. Traditionally these roles are ceremonial and have no significant administrative functions. Lord Provosts in the four city councils have the additional duty of acting as Lord Lieutenant for their respective city.
Leader of the Council
The Leader of the Council is elected as the leader of the largest political grouping of councillors. The Leader of the Council has no executive or administrative powers designated by statute, but the position is salaried. There is also a Depute Leader of the Council appointed.
Each political group within the council typically appoints a leader, with the largest grouping's leader becoming 'Leader of the Council', and being the central figure of de facto political authority.
Officers of a council are administrative, non-political staff of the council. Generally the composition of the council's officers are a matter for the council, but there are a number of statutory officers whose roles are defined by central government.
The most significant of these officers is the Head of Paid Service, usually titled the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive is similar in function to a city manager, though certain councillors have executive authority and there is no clear division of powers.
There is also a statutory Monitoring Officer, who usually heads the Legal Services division of the council, as well as a Chief Financial Officer.
Election results, 2007
Follow the introduction of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 local elections are held using the single transferable vote, with this taking place for the first time in 2007. This change in voting system saw all but five councils end up with no one party in control. Labour retained control of the City of Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, while Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar continue to be controlled by Independent councillors.
The results are summarised below. Further analysis can be found on the page Scottish council elections, 2007
The 32 unitary authorities are controlled as follows. The figures incorporate the results from the 2007 local government election, plus gains and losses from subsequent local by-elections, and party defections.
|Council area||Political control||Lab||SNP||LD||Con||Grn||Oth||Total|
|City of Aberdeen||LD-SNP||10||13||15||4||0||1||43|
|Argyll and Bute||Oth-SNP||0||10||8||3||0||15||36|
|Dumfries and Galloway||Con-LD (minority)||14||10||3||18||0||2||47|
|City of Dundee||SNP (minority)||10||13||2||3||0||1||29|
|East Ayrshire||SNP (minority)||14||14||0||3||0||1||32|
|East Dunbartonshire||Con-Lab (minority)||6||8||3||5||0||2||24|
|City of Edinburgh||LD-SNP||15||12||17||11||3||0||58|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||Oth||2||4||0||0||0||25||31|
|City of Glasgow||Lab||46||22||5||1||5||0||79|
|North Ayrshire||Lab (minority)||12||8||2||3||0||5||30|
|Perth and Kinross||SNP-LD||3||18||8||12||0||0||41|
|South Ayrshire||Con (minority)||9||8||0||12||0||1||30|
|South Lanarkshire||Lab (minority)||30||24||2||8||0||3||67|
Election results, 2003
The 32 unitary authorities were controlled as follows, before the 2007 elections. The figures incorporate the results from the 2003 local government election, plus gains and losses from subsequent local by-elections, and party defections.
|Council area||Political control||Labour Party (Lab)||Scottish National Party (SNP)||Liberal Democrats (LD)||Conservative Party (Con)||Others (Oth)|
|City of Aberdeen||LD-Con||14||6||20||3||0|
|Argyll and Bute||Oth||0||3||8||3||22|
|Dumfries and Galloway||Lab (minority)||15||5||5||11||11|
|City of Dundee||Lab-LD (minority)||10||11||2||5||1|
|City of Edinburgh||Lab||30||1||14||13||0|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||Oth||4||3||0||0||24|
|City of Glasgow||Lab||69||4||3||1||2|
|Perth and Kinross||SNP-LD-oth||5||15||9||10||2|
|South Ayrshire||Con (control dependent on casting vote of the Provost)||14||0||0||15||1|
|TOTAL||-||495 (15 councils, plus 2 shared control)||190 (1 council, plus 2 shared control)||179 (2 councils, plus 5 shared control)||126 (1 council, plus 2 shared control)||232(6 councils, plus 4 shared control)|
Community councils represent the interests of local people. Local authorities have a statutory duty to consult community councils on planning, development and other issues directly affecting that local community. However, the community council has no direct say in the delivery of services. In many areas they do not function at all, but some work very effectively at improving their local area. Elections for community councils are determined by the local authority but the law does state that candidates cannot stand on a party-political ticket.