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by Jenni Davidson
22 January 2021
Local government committee backs bill to put role of councils into Scots law

Scottish Parliament windows - Image credit: Holyrood

Local government committee backs bill to put role of councils into Scots law

The Local Government and Communities Committee has backed a member’s bill that would give the autonomy and powers of councils a stronger legal status in Scotland.

The member’s bill, which is being proposed by independent MSP Andy Wightman, aims to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots law.

The charter was created in 1985 by the Council of Europe and ratified by the UK in 1998.

It sets out 10 principles to protect the basic powers of local authorities in areas such as finances and local decision-making.

The bill would allow people and organisations to challenge the Scottish Government in court if its laws or decisions were not compatible with the charter.

Committee convener James Dornan said: “Across the political divide, there is a strong consensus that we need to have a successful local government sector in Scotland that can meet the needs of the communities it serves.

“Whilst this legislation is certainly not a panacea, the committee all agreed that it could have a positive impact in helping to reinforce the status of local authorities.

“It helps bring Scotland into the European mainstream, by ensuring local government rights and powers are codified in domestic law.

“Local government are already valued partners of national government, but we would hope that this would help level up the relationship and create a new incentive for both sides to work effectively together and look at what more can be done for people across Scotland.”

COSLA president Councillor Alison Evison said: “This is really significant progress for this bill, the key to building on Local and Scottish Government’s joint commitment to improve outcomes for our communities and renew democratic participation across Scotland.

“The committee’s support for incorporating the charter into Scots law is great news.

“In addition, this would mean that Scotland would no longer be one of the last remaining jurisdictions in Europe not to have given the charter the direct legal standing it deserves.

“I was particularly pleased that the committee thought that the bill would act as a spur for local and central government to cooperate effectively – this has long been the position of COSLA and that can only be good news for our communities.”

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