Local authorities operating independently of central government: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

1) In which year did it start in Scotland that:-

Local authorities in Scotland operate independently of central government and are accountable to their electorates.

2) How much is the biggest budget cut since 2009 to local authority spending (Eg roads, pavements, homelessness, etc etc)

3) How much is the budget for free prescriptions and if local authority or central Government decided that prescriptions should be free

4) Has central government any say over BBC license fee charges?

5) Do central government have any say over BT advertising in Scotland sports?


1) The independence of local authorities in Scotland is historic and goes back to the 1833 Burgh Police (Scotland) Act. This embodied the liberal notion that the inhabitants of a community should be free to identify local priorities, and to decide, through elected representatives, how to pay for these. The current 32 local authorities were created by the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 which continued with this historic independence. This differs from the position in England where central government does have greater powers in relation to local councils.

2) Given their independence from central government the Scottish Government does not set budgets for specific elements of local authority expenditure. It is a matter for individual local authorities to determine their spending priorities within their overall budget settlements. Local authorities provide the
Scottish Government with annual Budget Estimates and the overall figures are published on the Scottish Government website at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/local-government-financestatistics/#provisionaloutturnandbudgetestimates(pobe).

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

3) Public Health Scotland publishes annual data on prescription costs. The cost varies depending on the number of prescriptions dispensed and the cost of drugs. The most recent report covers 2019/20 and is available on their website at Prescribing statistics - prescribing practice and dispensingpharmacy 29 September 2020 - Data & intelligence from PHS (isdscotland.org). The Scottish Government is responsible for setting the charge for NHS prescriptions issued in Scotland. Prescription charges were abolished in April 2011.

4) The UK Government is responsible for setting the licence fee and the BBC is required to issue TV licences and collect licence fees under the Communications Act 2003, which was passed by the UK Parliament. Broadcasting and its regulation are not devolved and are the responsibility of the UK
Government, which means that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government do not have the power to introduce laws in this area.

5) Sporting bodies and clubs are able to secure their own sponsorship and the Scottish Government has no involvement if BT wished to sponsor a sport in Scotland.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

Back to top