Reform Scotland


Think tank says local democracy needs to be revitalised

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has proposed a complete overhaul of local governance via primary legislation ahead of next month’s local authority elections.

In publishing its Blueprint for Local Power, the think tank says that local democracy has been eroded by successive governments over many decades and needs to be revitalised.

In “Blueprint for Local Power”, Reform Scotland calls for a new constitutional relationship between local and central government, governed by a new piece of legislation which recognises the importance of local government to democracy and the operation of public services. It proposes the new constitutional relationship is based on three clear principles:

  • Local authorities will be responsible for all areas not specifically reserved to Holyrood – this is the same principle which governs the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood
  • Tasks should be carried out at the lowest level practical – the principle of subsidiarity, which would replace uniformity and drive forward on-the-ground innovation

  • Local authorities would provide clear and transparent information on their activities to ensure proper local accountability.

In the Blueprint for Local Power, Reform Scotland also calls for councils to be given the responsibilities of quangos wherever possible, and to have complete control over the type and level of taxes levied on local residents.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Director Geoff Mawdsley said:

“Successive governments at Holyrood and Westminster have paid lip service to the importance of local government, while centralising its power and reducing its autonomy and accountability.

“If there is any point in having a level of local government, and if we want it to mean anything, then we have to allow it to exercise power and with it take responsibility. That is why we are proposing legislation to cement local authorities’ place in the spectrum of governance in Scotland.

“If a task can more effectively be carried out at a local level, it should be devolved to local government instead of sitting at Holyrood.

“Critically, local authorities should be raising more of what they spend. At present, they raise only £1.40 of every £10 they spend. Council tax and business rates should be devolved to local authorities, and thereafter they should be able to introduce new taxes, or scrap existing ones, to fit their local circumstances.

“Local democracy is at a crossroads – it is time for politicians to follow decades of words with some action.”



  1.  Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at

    2. Reform Scotland’s local governance manifesto, Blueprint for Local Power, can be read below

    3. Reform Scotland’s director Geoff Mawdsley is a member of the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy

    4. Media: Message Matters (Peter Duncan, 07740 469949 or Andy Maciver, 07855 261244)