Image by sarajulhaq786 from Pixabay

2020: an overview

2020 was a challenging year for local governments, and while the sudden and necessary focus on Covid-19 in our work was unexpected, this crisis highlighted the value of the independent, unbiased, evidence based and concise briefings and blogs we produce when you need them. LGIU Scotland is committed to helping our members stay well informed, supporting you to innovate by sharing practice based experiences and championing the sharing of each other’s successes.

The ability to connect and integrate with LGIU England, Ireland and Australia plus our team of global writers, sharing the experiences and challenges faced by local governments around the world was a key feature of our response to Covid-19 and something we will build on in 2021.

Our year in numbers

2020 was our biggest year for content yet. Over the course of last year we brought our members:

  • 358 editions of the Daily News
  • 165 policy briefings
  • 122 blog updates
  • 118 pandemic bulletins
  • 13 briefing bundles
  • 4 “In Conversation With…” interviews
  • 2 International CEO panel events


Briefings are a core part of what LGiU Scotland can offer and are brought to you from our own expertise as well as via our associate network of academics, professionals, consultants and other local government experts from across Scotland and the UK.

We also have a large pool of international associates from our sister organisations who contribute global perspectives to local government issues that are relevant in Scotland – how these countries have responded to Covid-19 has been understandably popular, but also we also covered a wide range of other issues, such as climate change, sustainability, planning etc from an international perspective.

This year we published over 160 briefings covering everything from decarbonising public transport to tackling child poverty to trust in public institutions. Key briefing themes that we explored in 2020 included sustainable development, finance, education, housing and homelessness and of course all things coronavirus . We will continue to build on these themes and more in 2021.

Ten of the best

In case you missed them first time round, here are ten of our most popular briefings from 2020. You can also dive into the whole back catalogue here:

Scotland’s New Programme for Government: Highlights for Councils
On September 1 First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scottish Government’s new Programme for Government (PfG) 2020-2021. This briefing will summarise the key points of this announcement and highlight the parts most relevant to local government and public services.

For richer, for poorer: Health and social care integration in practice
This briefing examines the progress made in health and social care integration and some of the challenges faced along the way. The companion briefing In sickness and in health: how health and social care integration was supposed to work explains the background to integration.

Taking back the land: community land ownership in Scotland
Increasingly, local projects have bought land and properties from large estates to individual buildings on behalf of their communities. If Scotland is to deliver on a wellbeing economy with sustainability and fairness at the heart of recovery, land use is an important cornerstone.

Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan: Shaping Scotland’s Economy
Scottish Government recently released its latest ‘Inward Investment Plan’. In this briefing, we discuss the contents of the plan as well as the extent to which inward investment aligns with Scotland’s aspirational values as a future net-zero economy with the principles of fair work and sustainable, inclusive growth at its heart.

Spending Review November 2020: Highlights for Scottish local government
On November 25th the Chancellor laid out his much-anticipated one-year Spending Review, in place of the Comprehensive Spending Review and three-year plan he had hoped to produce before the pandemic disrupted the economic backdrop. This on-the-day briefing brought you the highlights.

Implementing a Workplace Parking Levy: Insights from Nottingham’s Experience
In 2011, Nottingham City Council became the first, and so far only, local authority to use the powers included in the Transport Act 2000 to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy. This briefing discusses its merits and also how it could be better implemented with the benefit of hindsight.

Lessons from Melbourne’s 20-Minute Neighbourhoods
As the pandemic reduces travel and commuting and people look to their local areas to fulfil needs, the traditional structures of urban areas are called into question. Using case studies, this briefing examines the idea of the 20-minute neighbourhood and how our councils might learn from the scheme.

Future directions of housing in Scotland
This briefing considers future directions of housing in Scotland, with a particular focus on how local authorities can leverage the sector to aid in a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable economic recovery from the effects of Covid-19.

Looking ahead: Eight ways local government can encourage active travel
This briefing outlines some of the temporary measures to encourage and support active travel that have been effectively implemented by councils, before exploring practical and permanent ways of continuing the trend long-term.

Scottish Household Survey 2019: What can local authorities learn from the data?
Scottish Household Survey 2019 is a Scotland-wide face-to-face survey of a random sample of people in private residences. The topics covered are of importance to local authorities as they directly relate to services provision including housing, education, health care and cultural activities.

We take content suggestions! If there’s an issue you’d like us to cover in a briefing this year please get in touch.

Covid-19 response

Despite pandemic issues not featuring at all in our 2020 plan, LGiU Scotland published over 80 pandemic response briefings exploring a broad range of Covid-19 themes from the impact on Scotland’s public finances to strategies to support mental health and wellbeing to what we might learn from Estonia’s e-enabled approach to the pandemic.

More generally, throughout the Covid crisis we have provided crucial up to date information, analysis of the impact of the pandemic on individuals, groups and communities, advice on coping with a rapidly changing situation, such as ensuring effective communications.

We also launched a weekly international Pandemic Bulletin, and set up an international Covid-19 resource page featuring global content on the impacts and implications of the pandemic for local councils and communities.

As Scotland  transitions into the next phase of living with and recovering from Covid-19, councils, along with partners, are exploring the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Considering implications for the services they deliver and the communities they support, we will build on our Post-Covid Councils framework that helped local councils ask a set of structured questions about how we emerge from the immediate crisis as everyone begins to imagine the shape of local government services and the public sector more broadly post-Covid.

Local government blog

Our local government blog includes insights and reflections from LGiU staff, guest writers and councils and partners from across Scotland and further afield. Here’s five recent updates you might have missed:

Town and community hubs
Councillor Jim Logue, Leader of North Lanarkshire Council, explains the Council’s approach to town and community hubs –  schools that are built together with other facilities to serve the whole community, with services of the council and other partners co-located within them.

Public sector supply chains: boosting economic recovery
Covid-19 has highlighted the cracks in our current food supply, but presents opportunities for rebuilding sustainably. Sarah Duley, Head of Food at Soil Association Scotland, encourages local authorities to consider the social, economic and environmental benefit to shortening supply chains and sourcing food locally.

Local government driving social mobility
Alexandra Sufit from the Social Mobility Commission is calling on local government to share our stories of supporting opportunity and social mobility through employment and work with partners.

For the Common Good
The Scottish Land Commission recently released a Protocol on Common Good Land, setting out clear expectations and behaviours for local authorities in managing Common Good land and buildings in line with their statutory duties – a big help for those struggling with clarity on this sometimes-complex issue. In this blog, they tell us more.

North Ayrshire’s Green New Deal
In response to the challenges of Covid-19 and the economic aftershocks impacting communities across Scotland, North Ayrshire Council recently published their Economic Recovery Plan – a local ‘Green New Deal’ which will focus on building back the local economy better, fairer and greener. Council Leader Cllr Joe Cullinane tells us more.

The Blog Roundup containing all the blog updates for the previous seven days goes out every wednesday afternoon. Sign up to recieve this by updating your preferences

Discussions and ideas

In conversation with…

We launched our “in conversation with…” interview series two years ago as a way of bringing you insights from a wide range of people who know what they’re talking about. We published four of these interview-style pieces this year.

In Conversation with… Iain Gulland – Zero Waste Scotland
LGiU Scotland’s Kim Fellows talks with Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, on organisational ambitions for 2020 and how partnering with local government can help push Scotland toward a decarbonised, sustainable future.

In Conversation with… John Alexander, Leader of Dundee Council
LGIU Scotland chats to John Alexander, Leader of Dundee City Council for the last three years and a councillor in Dundee for five years previously. John Alexander was named Leader of the Year last year at the LGiU Scotland & CCLA Councillor Awards.

In Conversation with… Josie Saunders, Scottish Canals
LGIU Scotland’s Kim Fellows is in conversation with Josie Saunders, Head of Corporate Affairs at Scottish Canals, to talk about recent research by Glasgow Caledonian University that, in a global first, shows the extent of the positive impact canal investment has on the local community around it.

In Conversation with… Gavin Corbett, Green Councillor in Edinburgh
LGiU Scotland speaks to Gavin Corbett, Green councillor for Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart in Edinburgh, about Covid-19, tourism, canals, and how we might be going from the ‘Covid-19 frying pan’ to the ‘climate change fire’.

Cllr Awards 2020

The LGIU Scotland Cllr Awards went virtual this year, and while we missed getting you all together to celebrate the successes and hard work of councillors across Scotland, we hosted a memorable live virtual ceremony and were able to shout about the achievements of our shortlisted councillors to our biggest audience ever.

These are the only awards showcasing the important work of councillors across Scotland and we are always proud to honour the vital, and often unrecognised, contributions they make throughout our communities. This year more than ever we acknowledged the need to champion these unsung heroes of local government who are working tirelessly to keep the country afloat during the pandemic.

Click here to find out more about the winners and watch the events. We’ll be sharing blogs and briefings about the work of our winning councillors over the coming weeks.

Image by Kohji Asakawa from Pixabay

Looking towards 2021

Throughout the coming year we’ll continue to bring you briefings and other content on a wide range of local government issues across a breadth of themes. A prominent focus for the first quarter and throughout the year will be on local government finance and the economy. We will also cover cities and towns, reviewing and sharing evidence on innovation and practice with case studies from at home and around the world.

We’ll continue the year with a theme of fairness and sustainability in the build up to COP 26 and as Scotland recovers from the pandemic while also taking look at forthcoming Holyrood elections their various implications for local government.

We will be keeping up our coverage of both the pandemic and Brexit for the foreseeable future, tackling new issues as they arise and revisiting some of the issues we covered in 2020, such as the impact of Covid on disadvantaged groups and communities. The impact of the withdrawal from the EU post the transition period will be crucial and we will be doing work on how local economies can cope with the joint fallouts of Covid and Brexit.

More immediately, some of the briefings we’ll be bringing you in the next couple of weeks include a look at:

  • Risk management
  • Scotland’s Marine Plan
  • Lessons from the Faroe Islands on digital and physical connectivity
  • The Green Recovery and the path to Net Zero
  • How councils can support staff continuing to work from home
  • Local Government funding settlement 2021-2022
  • Health and Social care

Over the coming months we will also be working with academics from the University of Edinburgh to facilitate research into neighbourhood resilience in the aftermath of COVID-19. This research is funded by the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN), an ESRC-supported network brings together the research community and decision-makers in the public, private and third sectors.

Thank you

As we approach the end of this unprecedented year we thank you for your continued feedback and support. We look forward to building on what we’ve delivered over the five years we’ve been operating so far and further developing service to meet the needs of our member councils and the wider local government sector.

The LGIU Scotland Team wishes you all the best for 2021.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay