“Local government comprises 32 local authorities (or councils) which provide public services, including education, social care, waste management, libraries and planning.
Councils operate independently of central government and are accountable to their electorates for the services they provide.” - Scottish Government
Each local authority is governed by a council. That council is made up of Councillors who are directly elected by the residents of the area they represent.
Representing the views of Scotland's 32 local authorities to central government is The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), which was formed in 1975. It also acts as the employers' association for local authorities.
“By providing a forum to discuss common issues and develop shared agendas, we gather the views of member councils and communicate these to key stakeholders including the Scottish, UK and European Parliaments.”
Council officers collaborate with those in other councils through CoSLA, and a wide range of professional bodies. Find a full list of all local government organisations and the professional interests that they represent, here, on the Scottish Government website.
There are 1,227 elected councillors, who are elected to local authorities by the electorate of their ward. Local government elections are generally held every 4 years, with the exception of three 5-year terms (2007-2012, 2012-2017 and 2017-2022) to avoid local government and Scottish government elections occurring in the same year.
Local authorities vary considerably in size and population, but all have responsibility for providing a range of public services to the communities in their area. This includes:
Education, including pre-school and school education, and adult and community education.
Social care, including Community Care.
Tackling inequalities and promoting social inclusion.
Regulatory and protective services
Roads and transport
Planning and environmental protection
Library and leisure services
The Scottish Government also keeps an updated, clear, and very helpful factsheet on Local authorities. Including details on:
The powers and duties of local authorities, as set out in legislation.
Individual and group roles within local authorities; such as Administration, Council Leaders, Civic Heads, Chief Executives, and Officers.
Processes and mechanisms employed by local authorities for decision making.
Partnership work conducted by local authorities, such as those with other public organisations.
The local authority code of conduct for publishing information.
You can find the full Local Authorities Factsheet online, here.
A Councillor is elected to represent a WARD, which is the equivalent of a constituency and will be accountable to the people of that ward. This is achieved by constituents visiting surgeries or lobbying their councillor by presenting petitions. As well as by voting in their election and re-election.
Each council area is divided into a number of wards, which are the equivalent of constituencies. Three or four councillors are elected for each ward, each accountable to the people of their ward.
Within their responsibility for the provision of the above listed range of public services, Local Councillors have four main roles:
Executive Decision Making
Whilst conducting this work, Local Councillors are expected to comply with the code of conduct for Councillors, as laid out in the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
The Scottish Government provides an updated online resource, with full code of conduct details - which you can find here!