All Things Scotland – Get ready, set, go. First Minister race warms up!

Welcome to All Things Scotland – LGIU's weekly collation of everything local government in Scotland!

In March, “North wind doth blow” the nursery rhyme says. This is certainly true in Scotland, where a wind of change is coming our way as the national political dialogue plays out.

While speculation over who will be in Bute House continues, this week we give you a flavour of what LGIU is delivering for you this month. From policy topics requested by our readers, this month we will be focusing on housing and planning, inequality and poverty with briefings on child poverty and inequalities triggered by disabilities. In addition, we will be looking at cost of living as it impacts rural and town communities and what the proposed national care service will mean for smaller councils

LGIU Scotland updates – Find all this and more on the LGIU Scotland page

Briefing: Failing families: Sharing learning on maternal and child healthcare

Briefing: The face of democracy: photo ID arrives at UK elections

Briefing: Housing and planning round-up February 2023

Article: In conversation with Jim Savege, Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council

Article: Why the new National Planning Framework can deliver Scotland’s environmental ambitions

Who is next in Bute House?

Restrictive, demoralising and cloaked in uncertainty

To understand the ramifications of the much-debated and now signed-off Scottish Government budget means for local government, read LGIU’s new in-depth briefing which explores how the budget has influenced funding for Councils through the Provisional Scottish Local Government Financial Settlement for 2023-24.

Serving in Holyrood since 1999 and as First Minister of Scotland since 2014, Nicola Sturgeon’s political commitment will leave an indelible mark on Scotland’s political landscape.

As the deadline for nominations closes this Friday (24th February), there are currently three candidates running with rumours of a late entry fourth candidate.

  • Kate Forbes
  • Ash Regan
  • Humza Yousaf

Find out more about candidates from Ballot Box Scotland here.

Housing & Planning

Why the new National Planning Framework can deliver Scotland’s environmental ambitions

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of the Green Action Trust writes about the importance of the NPF4 for embedding climate and nature emergencies across planning policy and placing a stronger emphasis than ever before on the tangible actions that can address these twin crises.

Hospitality businesses will soon be able to locate tables and chairs outside premises without submitting a planning application. Under measures expected by the end of the month, Councils retain powers to deal with obstructions that make it difficult for people to access pavements safely and effectively.

Under the new National Planning Framework (NPF4), projects returning former industrial or derelict sites to community use will be more likely to be approved following the introduction of long-term planning reforms. Moreover, under the NPF4, Councils are encouraged to support proposals for development that will help restore green spaces as part of local development plans. (Find out more about the NPF4 changes here).

Scotland’s Big Walking Seminar is back and in person! Join Living Streets Scotland in Stirling on the 7 March 2023 for a day of big ideas in economics, planning and behaviour change that can create change on the ground and make walking and wheeling everyday journeys a reality for everyone in Scotland.

Nine local authorities in Scotland are set to receive a share of £10m in funding from the Scottish Government to transform vacant and derelict lands, with the funding shared between 15 projects (You can find the full breakdown of successful applicants here).


Local Government in Scotland – financial challenges, but councils are responding well

Amidst the gloom of a disappointing local government finance settlement and the financial constraints facing us 2023-24, it is important to remember how well Scottish councils have responded to Covid-19, Brexit and increasing demand pressures over the past couple of years. This LGIU briefing looks at the main findings of the bulletin (focusing mainly on 2021-22) but also looks briefly at how councils are dealing with budget pressures in 2022-23 and the challenges for 2023-24 and beyond.

The Scottish Government 2023-24 budget is now passed and with it came three new developments for local government.

  • £100m extra for councils for pay deals negotiated for the majority of local government employees by the Scottish Joint Council.
  • Separately, the Scottish Government has already confirmed it will provide an additional £156m – £33m in 2022-23 and £123m in 2023-24 to support a new pay offer for teachers which would see teacher salaries rise by 11.5% from April.
  • Promises to fund the revenue cost increases incurred by local authorities managing the inter-islands ferry network.

Community projects tackling poverty and disadvantage will receive £27m funding over the next three years in South East Glasgow, Inverness, West Lothian, South West Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, South West Edinburgh and the Borders.

A new blog from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre looks at transparency and the Scottish budget and asks whether the information provided by the Scottish Government is an effective enabler of scrutiny?

An estimated 4,000 families with around 14,000 children are now able to apply for extra financial support through their local council’s Discretionary Housing Payments scheme.

Lending a long-term lens to what local government finance will look like, new IFS research outlines that even if Scottish councils increased council tax by 5% a year for two years, they may still face real-term cuts to their funding.

Health, social care and education

Leave no one behind: State of health and health inequalities in Scotland today

Health inequalities remain a major challenge for Scotland. This briefing highlights how the Scottish Government’s approach to public health needs to be more focused and supported with resources locally. It also covers the ‘implementation gap’ and advocates for more achievable short-term goals to complement the national performance framework.

While last week saw a new pay offer for Scotland’s teachers being shared with trade unions following a meeting of council leaders on 14th February, EIS Salaries Committee rejected the revised pay offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA, with COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Katie Hagmann commenting,

“This is very disappointing. The decision by the unions to turn down the offer of good faith, without even asking their members, means that teachers will not see a penny of this pay increase in 22/23. “

Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) & a number of civil society organisations published an open letter requesting the National Care Service Bill be paused. In response, COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Paul Kelly, commented:

“The National Care Service Bill has clearly caused great concern across Scottish civil society, reflected by today’s letter from a breadth of organisations.”

Scottish Government and COSLA are inviting organisations to consider the invitation and application in relation to the four Strategic Outcome Lead roles as a key part of delivering the Suicide Prevention Strategy. Click here to find out how to apply!

New principles, which are a first for Scotland, and have been developed by COSLA, with partners from across Local Government, to promote good practice in the management of school meal debt, whilst retaining a level of flexibility to enable local authorities to design and implement approaches which align with the unique needs and circumstances of their communities.

Climate and the environment

How are Australian Councils leading the way on Deposit Return Schemes?

Driving a circular economy approach to soft plastic recycling. This new article uncovers how the City of Greater Bendigo’s new partnership with Close the Loop implements a circular economy for recyclable materials.

Consultations have opened on a new Scottish Government plan to end the sale of peat as part of wider plans to protect peatlands and reduce carbon emissions. Responses to the consultation will inform plans and timescales for moving away from using peat products in order to protect peatlands from further damage.

Local government learnings from Ireland

Places are unique, however, so many of the challenges faced by local government are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. To promote the sharing of local government best practices and innovation, check out these two policy innovations from Ireland:

What would your colleagues do with an innovation fund from the Chief Executive?

Find out how a Fingal County Council Executive Engineer spearheaded a new award-winning project on weather stations in schools.

How did Clare County Council win the local authority of the year award? 

This new briefing showcases how Clare County Council – Ireland’s recently awarded Local Authority of the Year – delivers for its communities and enables its stakeholders and communities to ensure the county continues to develop as a place to live, work and visit.

What is the state of housing policy in Ireland?

Given Ireland’s failure to ensure a level of housing output that meets the needs of a growing economy, this research from the LGIU looks at the approach of policy making in Ireland to housing and considers the current institutional and political barriers that currently limit housing options.

You can find all this and more in our new All Things Ireland edition here.

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