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Bill to set out the role of councils in Scots law being considered by local government committee

Andy Wightman - Image credit: Scottish Parliament youtube

Bill to set out the role of councils in Scots law being considered by local government committee

A bill that would set out the role of councils in Scots law is being considered by Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee.

The committee is seeking views on a member’s bill by Green MSP Andy Wightman that aims to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots law.

The charter sets out 10 principles to protect the basic powers of local authorities, and their political, administrative and financial independence.

These include that that local authorities should have “full discretion to exercise their initiative” in any area that is within their competence and that “powers given to local authorities shall normally be full and exclusive”.

Powers may not be “undermined or limited” by central or regional authority except as covered for by the law and public responsibilities should preferably be carried out by the authority closest to the citizen, it says.

It also says that local authorities must have “adequate financial resources of their own” and that finances must be of a “sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature” to keep pace as far as possible with the real the cost of carrying out their responsibilities.

“As far as possible, grants to local authorities shall not be earmarked for the financing of specific projects,” it adds.

The charter was created in 1985 by the Council of Europe and ratified by the UK in 1997.

By incorporating it into Scots law, Wightman’s European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill would allow people or organisations to challenge the Scottish Government in court if its laws or decisions were not compatible with the charter.

Launching the consultation, committee convener James Dornan said: “Local authorities deliver a wide range of services that are a vital part of our daily lives, from social care and public libraries to planning and street cleaning.

“The aim of this bill is to strengthen local democracy by increasing the autonomy of local authorities and enshrining support for local government into law.

“The committee are interested in hearing from people across Scotland as to whether they feel this bill will support local government, strengthen the bond between councils and communities and make a practical difference to people’s lives.

“We also want to make sure it would have no unintended consequences. We are keen to hear whether the public supports these measures.

“We also want to gather thoughts on the financial impact of this legislation, and whether this will have a positive impact on equality and human rights.”

The consultation runs until Thursday 17 September 2020.

The Council of Europe is a Europe-wide body that focuses on democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

It is separate from the EU and the UK will still be a member of the Council of Europe after leaving the EU.

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