Community Councils were created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The Act required local authorities to introduce Community Council schemes for their area outlining various arrangements including elections, meetings, boundaries, and finance.
They are the most local tier of statutory representation in Scotland, bridging the gap between local authorities and communities. There are around 1,200 active community councils in Scotland, each helping to make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the communities they represent.
Local authorities (e.g. local councils) have statutory oversight of Community Councils and, in consultation with their Community Councils, the freedom to tailor schemes to the particular circumstances of their area.
As stated on the Scottish Community Councils website, which is managed by CoSLA, The Scottish Government, and The National Improvement Service for Local Government in Scotland:
Community Councils must represent all people in the area without prejudice. Therefore they should:
Be non-party political and non-sectarian.
Represent a full cross-section of the community and encourage the involvement of people regardless of gender, race, age, disability, nationality or sexual orientation.
Community Councils act as a voice for their local area. Their specific role can vary according to their local area’s needs. Their size, in terms of area and population, differs across the country.ﾠ In some areas there are Federations of Community Councils, allowing them to work together over larger areas.
They must ascertain and express the views of the community to local authorities and other public bodies, and to take action which appears to be in the interests of its community. They can complement the role of the local authority but are not part of local government. They should have a positive working partnership with the local authority - therefore they must be informed on the council’s policies, and keep the council updated on their activities.
To effectively represent their community they must be proactive in consulting and engaging with local residents.
Getting involved in your local community council is a fantastic way to play a role in decision making, and representation. Providing a platform for you to have your voice heard, and gain greater insight into systems and policies at work in your community. It can also be a powerful first step towards further involvement in different areas of representation.
Across the over 1,200 community councils in Scotland, there are good examples of how their work, and your involvement in them, can empower communities. As circumstances for each area differ, the schemes and engagement of each community council also differ.
There are three main roles which each Community Council must have, and which carry the most responsibility:
However, they are by no means limited to these roles. As pointed out by Scottish Community Councils, other roles that might be created to support the work of the community council, depending on its circumstances are:
Assets Management Officer
“You don’t have to take on a specific role to be involved in your community council. All members play an important part by thinking creatively about what you can do together to improve the lives of local citizens. If you do take on a role, then you don’t need to feel restricted to only doing this – the main role of the committee is to support each other and work together to make things happen.”
To find your local community council, there’s two main routes to take:
Scottish Communities Council website
The Scottish Communities Council website provides a handy Community Council Finder tool, using an interactive map of Scotland.
If you’re on Twitter, it’s also worth following the official Community Councils Scotland account, @ScottishCCs. They share highlights from community councils across the country, including election announcements, calls for consultation, and community initiatives.
2. Your Local Council Website
Each local council has an area of their website dedicated to Community Council information. So, if you haven’t yet visited your local council website, a great place to start is on the CoSLA directory of Local Councils!
From there, you can access your local council website, navigating to their main menu for community council information.
The format of this information varies, with some hosting all community council content, and some providing an overview with links to community councils’ own websites. So, it’s worth taking a wee bit of time to explore the websites, and get to know how your Community Council works.
Each community council must hold an election at least once every four years, giving new members the opportunity to join. However, they often hold by-elections, outwith the regular election schedule, to fill community council vacancies as they arise.
Your local community council will be able to give you information about when their elections are held.
All community councils welcome local residents to get involved, provided you meet the following requirements:
You are aged 16 or over.
You are on the Electoral Roll (see: registering to vote).
You are a resident of the community council area.
Each community council decides how often it meets and this varies from monthly to four times a year. All meetings are open to the public and are advertised locally.
The public consultation and engagement initiatives that each community council undertakes also vary. Encouraged to innovate, and reach out to their wider communities in new, more accessible ways, being involved in your community council’s work should be a fantastic way for you to apply your learning, insights, and lived experiences to the improvement of local democratic systems.
Head to the Community Councils Scotland Showcases page, where they document and celebrate community councils whose activities set positive examples of community building, engagement, and development!