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Local government in Scotland is organised through 32 unitary authoritiesdesignated as councils which consist of councillors elected every five years by registered voters in each of the council areas.
Councils receive the majority of their funding from the Scottish Government,through aggregate external finance (AEF). AEF consists of three parts: Revenue support grants, non-domestic rates, and income and specific grants. The level of central government support for each authority is determined by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, currently Kate Forbes MSP, and is distributed by the Finance and Central Services Department of the Scottish Government. Councils obtain additional income through the Council Tax, that the council itself sets.
Scottish councils co-operate through, and are represented collectively by, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
The history of Scottish local government mainly surrounds involves the counties of Scotland. The counties have their origins in the sheriffdoms or shires over which a sheriff (a contraction of shire reeve ) exercised jurisdiction.
Malcolm III appears to have introduced sheriffs as part of a policy of replacing native "Celtic" forms of government with Anglo Saxon and Norman feudal structures.This was continued by his sons Edgar, Alexander I and in particular David I. David completed the division of the country into sheriffdoms by the conversion of existing thanedoms.
From the seventeenth century the shires started to be used for local administration apart from judicial functions. In 1667 Commissioners of Supply were appointed in each sheriffdom to collect the land tax.The commissioners eventually assumed other duties in the county. In 1858 police forces were established in each county under the Police (Scotland) Act 1857.
As a result of the dual system of local government, burghs (of which there were various types) often had a high degree of autonomy.
Between 1890 and 1975 local government in Scotland was organised with county councils (including four counties of cities) and various lower-level units. Between 1890 and 1929, there were parish councils and town councils, but with the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929, the functions of parish councils were passed to larger district councils and a distinction was made between large burghs (i.e. those with a population of 20,000 or more) and small burghs. This system was further refined by the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947.
Effective from 1975, the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 passed by the Conservative government of Edward Heath introduced a system of two-tier local government in Scotland (see Local government areas of Scotland 1973 to 1996), divided between large Regional Councils and smaller District Councils. The only exceptions to this were the three Island Councils, Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney which had the combined powers of Regions and Districts. The Conservative government of John Major (1990–1997) decided to abolish this system and merge their powers into new unitary authorities. The new councils vary wildly in size — some are the same as counties, such as Clackmannanshire, some are the same as former districts, such as Inverclyde and some are the same as the former regions, such as Highland. The changes took effect in 1996 with shadow councillors elected in 1995 to oversee the smooth transition of control.
In 2007, Council elections moved to the Single Transferable Vote system, with wards represented by either three or four councillors. The transition has resulted in no uncontested seats and has ended single-party controlled Councils
In 2016 there were ward boundary changes in 25 local authority areas, following the Scottish Government accepting some of the recommendations of Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.
The power vested in local authorities is administered by elected councillors. There are currently 1,227 councillors,each paid a part-time salary for the undertaking of their duties. In total, there are 32 unitary authorities, the largest being the City of Glasgow with more than 600,000 inhabitants, the smallest, Orkney, with just over 20,000 people living there (population of 21,670 in 2015).
Councillors are subject to a Code of Conduct instituted by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and enforced by the Standards Commission for Scotland.If a person believes that a councillor has broken the code of conduct they make a complaint to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS). The Commissioner makes a determination on whether there is a need for an investigation, and then whether or not to refer the matter to the Standards Commission.
Each council elects a convener from among the members of the council to chair meetings and to act as a figurehead for the area.A council may also elect a depute convener, though this is not required. In the four city councils in Scotland - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee - the convener is called a Lord Provost, whilst in other councils the council may choose another title for their conveners. Most councils use the term 'provost'.
The office of provost or convener is roughly equivalent to that of a mayor in other parts of the United Kingdom. Traditionally these roles are ceremonial and have no significant administrative functions. Lord provosts in the four city councils have the additional duty of acting as Lord Lieutenant for their respective city.
The Leader of the Council is elected as the leader of the largest political grouping of councillors. The Leader of the Council has no executive or administrative powers designated by statute, but the position is salaried.There is also a Depute Leader of the Council appointed.
Each political group within the council typically appoints a leader, with the largest grouping's leader becoming 'Leader of the Council', and being the central figure of de facto political authority.
Officers of a council are administrative, non-political staff of the council. Generally the composition of the council's officers are a matter for the council, but there are a number of statutory officers whose roles are defined by the central government.
The most significant of these officers is the Head of Paid Service, usually titled the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive is similar in function to a city manager, though certain councillors have executive authority and there is no clear division of powers.
There is also a statutory Monitoring Officer, who usually heads the Legal Services division of the council, as well as a Chief Financial Officer.
Following boundary changes:
|Party||First-preference votes||Councils||+/-||2012 seats||2017 seats||Seat change|
|Seats won||Notional||Seats won||Seat %||vs Notional|
|Scottish National Party||610,454||32.3%||0.0||0||1||425||438||431||35.1%||7|
|No Overall Control||—||—||—||29||4||—||—||—||—||—|
Note: There were boundary changes in many of these councils. Notional seats and seat change are based on a notional 2012 result calculated by the BBC.The methodology was officially revealed on 9 May 2017. The relevant explanation is available on the BBC Website. Comparisons with the actual results from 2012 are inconsistent, as the number of seats and seat changes will be different because of an increase in council seats across the country from 1,223 to 1,227 and the different boundaries.
|Party||2012 seats||2012 notional|
|Scottish National Party||425||438|
Political control may be held by minority governments (min), coalitions (co), joint leadership arrangements (j.l.) or partnership working arrangements (p.w.).
Last update 10 May 2021.
|Aberdeen||NOC||CON+ALAB +IND co||URL||45||19||9||9||3||4|
|Aberdeenshire||NOC||CON+LD+IND co||URL||70||19||18||1||13||1||19||1||East Garioch (LD) - TBC|
|Argyll & Bute||NOC||CON+LD+IND co||URL||36||11||10||5||10|
|Dumfries & Galloway||NOC||LAB+SNP co||URL||43||10||16||9||1||7|
|East Ayrshire||NOC||SNP min||URL||32||14||6||9||3|
|East Dunbartonshire||NOC||LD+CON co||URL||22||7||6||2||6||1|
|East Lothian||NOC||LAB min||URL||22||6||7||9|
|East Renfrewshire||NOC||SNP+LAB co||URL||18||5||5||4||1||3|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||IND||IND||URL||31||7||1||23|
|North Ayrshire||NOC||LAB min||URL||33||10||7||11||5|
|North Lanarkshire||NOC||LAB min||URL||77||28||8||31||10|
|Perth & Kinross||NOC||CON+LD+IND co||URL||40||13||18||1||5||3|
|Renfrewshire||NOC||SNP min||URL||43||19||8||13||1||1||Paisley Southeast (Ind) - Vacant, due to Councillor being disqualified for 14 months|
|Scottish Borders||NOC||CON+IND co||URL||34||8||15||2||9|
|South Ayrshire||NOC||SNP+LAB+IND p.w.||URL||28||9||12||5||2|
|South Lanarkshire||NOC||SNP min||URL||64||25||12||17||3||7|
|West Lothian||NOC||LAB min||URL||33||13||7||12||1|
The 32 unitary authorities were controlled as follows. The figures incorporate the results from the 2012 local government election, plus gains and losses from subsequent local by-elections, and party defections.
|Council area||Political control||Lab||SNP||LD||Con||Grn||Ind/Oth||Total|
|City of Aberdeen||Lab-Con-Ind||17||16||5||2||0||3||43|
|Argyll and Bute||Ind-LD-Con||1||8||4||3||0||20||36|
|Dumfries and Galloway||Lab-Ind (minority)||13||9||1||9||0||15||47|
|City of Dundee||SNP||10||16||1||1||0||1||29|
|City of Edinburgh||Lab-SNP||21||17||2||11||5||2||58|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Outer Hebrides)||Ind||2||4||0||0||0||25||31|
|City of Glasgow||Lab||40||30||1||1||4||2||78|
|North Ayrshire||Lab (minority)||12||11||0||1||0||6||30|
|North Lanarkshire||Lab (minority)||31||22||0||0||0||17||70|
|Perth and Kinross||SNP (minority)||4||18||5||11||0||3||41|
|West Lothian||Lab (minority)||16||15||0||1||0||1||32|
Following the introduction of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 local elections are held using the single transferable vote, with this taking place for the first time in 2007. This change in voting system saw all but five councils end up with no one party in control. Labour retained control of the City of Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, while Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar continue to be controlled by Independent councillors.
The 32 unitary authorities are controlled as follows. The figures incorporate the results from the 2007 local government election, plus gains and losses from subsequent local by-elections, and party defections.
|Council area||Political control||Lab||SNP||LD||Con||Grn||Oth||Total|
|City of Aberdeen||LD-SNP||10||13||15||4||0||1||43|
|Argyll and Bute||Oth-LD-Con||0||10||8||3||0||15||36|
|Dumfries and Galloway||Con-LD (minority)||14||10||3||18||0||2||47|
|City of Dundee||SNP (minority)||8||14||2||3||0||2||29|
|East Ayrshire||SNP (minority)||14||14||0||3||0||1||32|
|East Dunbartonshire||Con-Lab (minority)||6||8||3||5||0||2||24|
|City of Edinburgh||LD-SNP||15||12||17||11||3||0||58|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Outer Hebrides)||Ind||2||4||0||0||0||25||31|
|City of Glasgow||Lab||46||22||5||1||5||0||79|
|North Ayrshire||Lab (minority)||12||8||2||3||0||5||30|
|Perth and Kinross||SNP-LD||3||18||8||12||0||0||41|
|South Ayrshire||Con (minority)||9||8||0||12||0||1||30|
Community councils represent the interests of local people. Local authorities have a statutory duty to consult community councils on planning, development and other issues directly affecting that local community. However, the community council has no direct say in the delivery of services. In many areas they do not function at all, but some work very effectively at improving their local area. Elections for community councils are determined by the local authority but the law does state that candidates cannot stand on a party-political ticket.
South Lanarkshire is one of 32 unitary authorities of Scotland. It borders the south-east of the City of Glasgow and contains some of Greater Glasgow's suburbs,also containing many towns and villages. It also shares borders with Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, the Scottish Borders and West Lothian. It includes part of the historic county of Lanarkshire.
The politics of Edinburgh are expressed in the deliberations and decisions of the City of Edinburgh Council, in elections to the council, the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament.
Glasgow City Council is the local government authority for the City of Glasgow, Scotland. It was created in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, largely with the boundaries of the post-1975 City of Glasgow district of the Strathclyde region.
Falkirk is one of 32 unitary authority council areas of Scotland. It was formed on 1 April 1996 by way of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 from the exact boundaries of Falkirk District, one of three parts of the Central region created in 1975, which was abolished at that time. Prior to the 1975 reorganisation, the majority of the council area was part of the historic county of Stirlingshire, and a small part, namely Bo'ness and Blackness, was part of the former county of West Lothian.
The shires of Scotland, or counties of Scotland, are historic subdivisions of Scotland established in the Middle Ages and used as administrative divisions until 1975. Originally established for judicial purposes, from the 17th century they started to be used for local administration purposes as well. The areas used for judicial functions (sheriffdoms) came to diverge from the shires, which ceased to be used for local government purposes after 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.
For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas", which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils". They have the option under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1997 of being known as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent informally.
A burgh is an autonomous municipal corporation in Scotland and Northern England, usually a city, town, or toun in Scots. This type of administrative division existed from the 12th century, when King David I created the first royal burghs. Burgh status was broadly analogous to borough status, found in the rest of the United Kingdom. Following local government reorganisation in 1975, the title of "royal burgh" remains in use in many towns, but now has little more than ceremonial value.
The Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created the current local government structure of 32 unitary authorities covering the whole of Scotland.
Lesley Hinds is a Scottish Labour Party politician who served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Scotland from 2003 to 2007.
A provost is the ceremonial head of Scottish local authorities and other statutory elected civic bodies past and present such as Town, District and Community Councils, and under the name prévôt was a governmental position of varying importance in Ancien Régime France.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is the national association of Scottish councils and acts as an employers' association for its 32 member authorities.
Renfrewshire or the County of Renfrew is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It contains the local government council areas of Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, as well as parts of Glasgow and is occasionally named Greater Renfrewshire to distinguish the county from the modern council area.
Commissioners of Supply were local administrative bodies in Scotland from 1667 to 1930. Originally established in each sheriffdom to collect tax, they later took on much of the responsibility for the local government of the counties of Scotland. In 1890 they ceded most of their duties to the county councils created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. They were finally abolished in 1930.
The Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland, usually called the Wheatley Commission or the Wheatley Report, was published in September 1969 by the chairmanship of Lord Wheatley. Its recommendations led to a new system of regional and district councils, introduced in 1975 by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.
This page documents political party strengths in the United Kingdom's principal local authorities. The last major change to council compositions was the 6 May 2021 local elections, but changes in party representation arise frequently due to resignations, deaths, by-elections, co-options and changes of affiliation.
The City of Edinburgh Council is the local government authority for the City of Edinburgh. It was created in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, with the boundaries of the post-1975 City of Edinburgh District Council of the Lothian region.
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The 2017 Scottish local elections were held on Thursday 4 May, in all 32 local authorities. The SNP retained its position as the largest party in terms of votes and councillors, despite suffering minor losses. The Conservatives made gains and displaced Labour as the second largest party, while the Liberal Democrats suffered a net loss of councillors despite increasing their share of the vote. Minor parties and independents polled well; and independent councillors retained majority control over the three island councils. For the first time since the local government reforms in 1995, all mainland councils fell under no overall control.
The 1999 elections to West Dunbartonshire Council were held on the 6 May 1999 and were the second to the unitary authority, which was created, along with 28 other local authorities, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994.
Local elections in England and Wales were held on 6 May 2021 for more than 145 English local councils for around 5,000 seats, thirteen directly elected mayors in England, and 39 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. There were also elections to the Scottish Parliament, Senedd and London Assembly, the last in conjunction with the London mayoral election.