(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.
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||Population|
|Argyll & Bute||36||6,909||257,740|
|City of Edinburgh||58||263||487,500|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||31||3,059||27,400|
|Dumfries & Galloway||47||6,426||150,270|
|Perth and Kinross||41||5,286||147,750|
The Scottish Government’s local government pages
Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
Scottish Government & Local Government concordat 2007
Single Outcome Agreements 2013