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Local democracy

We want powerful and well-run local councils with a "can do, will do" attitude, committed to the delivery of excellent local services. Local Authorities have suffered serious and disproportionate cuts to their budgets at the hands of SNP-Green budget deals, reducing their capacity for innovation and dynamism and damaging their ability to support local communities.

Strong councils are those that are accessible and accountable to local people. We will:

  • Open up councils, campaigning to protect and enhance public access to council meetings (including virtual meetings), creating opportunities to question the council leadership and establishing regular town hall meetings in local communities.
  • Listen and act on the lived experiences of service users.
  • Support the Scottish Liberal Democrats' campaign for the Scottish Parliament to establish powers of recall, meaning communities have the ultimate sanction of removing their elected representatives in the event of proven misconduct.
  • Treat our political opponents, journalists and the public with respect and have a zero-tolerance approach to abuse.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will oppose the centralising power grabs of SNP Ministers in Holyrood and campaign to free councils to deliver for their areas, with the powers and financial levers they need. We will:

  • Support the restoration of local control over council tax and business rates as part of a comprehensive plan to increase the proportion of funding determined and distributed locally.
  • Oppose the SNP's centralisation agenda, including the latest plan to take over social work, children's services, community justice, and alcohol and drug services.
  • Campaign for councils to receive their fair share of Scottish Government resources.
  • Work through COSLA to develop a new vision for local councils with a suite of new powers which can be used to make a real difference to people's lives, particularly in economic strategy, energy, transport, town planning and funding for affordable housing.
  • Promote the long-overdue replacement of the council tax.
  • Support parity of esteem between local and central government underpinned by a fiscal framework that recognises the important work councils do.
  • Adopt fair work principles so that councils, as leading local employers, show leadership and can attract and retain the talent needed for quality services, good governance and to guarantee value for money.

Our community-focus will decentralise power, build wealth, help communities be involved in decisions at an early stage and respect the choices they make for their neighbourhoods. We support the people-centred wealth building agenda.

We will:

  • Recognise social and mutual enterprises, voluntary and community organisations as key council partners, supporting them to build their capacity so they can make the greatest impact. This will include supporting them to run local services and facilities such as community spaces.
  • Work in partnership with the voluntary sector and community organisations to enhance the effectiveness of local provision and services, giving people a greater say in and control over decisions which affect them.
  • Recognise the social value of land and assets held by public bodies, providing opportunities and support for community asset transfers and letting local people control and benefit from community assets and spending.
  • Use the power of councils to bring different services and public and voluntary sector agencies together to develop Shared Service Hubs using community halls, libraries, advice centres and post offices.
  • Support meaningful participative budgeting.
  • Support community councils to grow and become more effective, more participative and more representative of the areas they serve. We will offer them enhanced roles in matters such as common good, ceremonial and civic matters, town twinning, and the development of town centres and local facilities.
  • Support local groups working to improve the environment and tackle the climate emergency, including those operating community gardens and allotments.
  • Recognise that planning decisions are best tailored and decided locally, not overruled nationally.
  • Campaign for rural communities to have enhanced consultation rights and consideration, similar to the Islands Act, to ensure the unique challenges they face are addressed.