Local government

Local government comprises 32 local authorities (or councils) which provide public services, including education, social care, waste management, libraries and planning.

Councils operate independently of central government and are accountable to their electorates for the services they provide.


We have set the framework for, and continue to monitor and support:

We are working with local government and other stakeholders to take forward:


Local government in Scotland has been made up of 32 local authorities since 1996. You can view local authority boundary maps on the Local Government Boundary Commission website.

Local authorities vary considerably in size and population, but all have responsibility for providing a range of public services to the communities in their area. Read more on our local authorities factsheet.

Each council is made up of councillors who are directly elected by the residents of the area they represent. The council areas is divided into a number of wards, and three or four councillors are elected for each ward. There are 1,226 elected councillors, who are normally elected every four years.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) was formed in 1975 to represent the views of Scotland's 32 local authorities to central government. It also acts as the employers' association for local authorities. Council officers collaborate with those in other councils through a wide range of professional bodies. View a list of all local government organisations.

Budget allocation

We aim to provisionally set the allocated budget for local authorities for a three-year period at each spending review, to help local authorities to plan for the longer term. However, in some years the budget is set for a single-year period.

The allocation for the new financial year is agreed each February and confirmed in March, after local authorities have set their council tax levels for the year.

Allocations for previous years are held in the local government finance circulars.

Bills and legislation

The Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 sets out provisions for local government elections and expenses, and new requirements for the membership of local authorities (including pay and pensions).

The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 introduced a range of new duties for local authorities, including requirements to secure best value, engage in community planning and additional enforcement and financial functions.

The Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 set the current structure of local government in Scotland.

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 establishes many local authority powers and responsibilities.

See also:


Local Government Policy and Relationships Team
3G North
Victoria Quay

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