Local Government Fact Sheet


(A separate fact sheet will examine local government finance)


The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994 abolished Scotland’s 9 regional and 53 district councils creating the unitary system of 32 local authorities in place in Scotland today. Within those 32 councils, 1,223 councillors are elected every four years through a single transferable vote system to represent multi member wards. The last local government elections took place in 2012. However, the next elections will not take place until 2017 to avoid clashing with the Scottish Parliament elections.

The structural make up of local authorities varies hugely throughout the country from the number of people they represent, to the geographical size of the area and the number of councillors elected, as illustrated below.

Local authorities have a wide range of responsibilities in Scotland, some of which they are required to carry out whilst others are up to local discretion. Mandatory powers cover areas such as the provision of schooling for all 5 to 16-year-olds; promotion of social welfare; provision of housing for the homeless; and, initiating and facilitating Community Planning. Permissive powers include promoting economic development and promoting arts and tourism.

Under agreements reached between local authorities and the Scottish Government, both tiers of government work jointly towards agreed outcomes under a single national purpose.

The majority of councils’ income comes from central government grants, though they raise money directly though council tax and sales, fees and charges.  A separate Fact Sheet will look at the issue of local government taxation.

The organisational structure and political management within councils varies.  For example, in larger more rural areas, such as Aberdeenshire, it is common to have local area committees, where certain responsibilities are delegated down to committees made up of local councillors from that area.

Each council elects a Convener and Depute Convener to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area.   In most councils in Scotland, the role is referred to as the area’s Provost.  However, this role is ceremonial and is different from the leader of the council.  The leader of the largest political grouping is usually elected leader of the council.

Key Statistics:

The table below lists Scotland’s councils and gives information on the ruling party or parties, the number of councillors, the geographical area covered and the population of each.  There is also a link to each council’s website.

Council Ruling Party Number of Councillors Area sq m[1] Population[2]
Aberdeen City   43 186 227,130
Aberdeenshire   68 6,313 257,740
Angus   29 2,182 227,130
Argyll & Bute   36 6,909 257,740
City of Edinburgh   58 263 487,500
Clackmannanshire   18 159 51,280
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar   31 3,059 27,400
Dumfries & Galloway   47 6,426 150,270
Dundee   29 60 148,170
East Ayrshire   32 1,262 122,440
East Dunbartonshire   24 174 105,860
East Lothian   23 679 94,440
East Renfrewshire   20 174 89,000
Falkirk   32 297 157,140
Fife   78 1,325 366,910
Glasgow   79 175 596,550
Highland   80 25,656 232,950
Inverclyde   20 160  80,310
Midlothian   18 354 84,700
Moray   26 2,238 94,350
North Ayrshire   30 885 136,920
North Lanarkshire   70 470  337,730
Orkney Islands   21 989 21,570
Perth and Kinross   41 5,286 147,750
Renfrewshire   40 261 173,900
Scottish Borders   34 4,732 113,870
Shetland Islands   22 1,467 23,200
South Ayrshire   30 1,222 112,850
South Lanarkshire   67 1,772 314,850
Stirling   22 2,187 91,260
West Dunbartonshire   22 159 89,810
West Lothian   33 427 176,140


Reform Scotland Publications:
Localising Local Tax, August 2015
Renewing Local Government, May 2012
Local Power, June 2008

Further Reading:
The Scottish Government’s local government pages
Audit Scotland
Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
Scottish Government & Local Government concordat 2007
Single Outcome Agreements 2013




[1] http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/02/3131/6

[2] http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/02/3131/6