2. Current Practice
2.1 At present, elected members undertake training on a voluntary basis. Current practice varies across Scotland as the content and volume of training for elected members is not prescribed or monitored by legislation, the Scottish Government, or any other individual body.
2.2 Both the Improvement Service and PAS (formerly Planning Aid for Scotland) currently provide training materials for elected members. The Improvement Service provides free to access materials titled 'Introduction to the Planning System for Elected Members' which has been approved by Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS). This is used by many local authorities to provide training. PAS training is provided at a cost to authorities and is based on a core script which is adapted to suit individual authority's needs. Other private sector companies also provide training to some authorities.
2.3 Mandatory training is not unique to planning. Elected members who sit on licensing boards are already required to undertake mandatory training before they can take up a position on the board. This training is currently administered by Alcohol Focus Scotland, a national charity. The key elements of this training are:
- 1 day course with some home study before and after the course
- Course content is specified by the Scottish Government and covers an introduction to licensing, responsible operation of licensed premises, and the effect of irresponsible operation on society and health
- A 40 question multiple choice assessment completed virtually, after the training session, facilitated by Alcohol Focus Scotland and accredited by Scottish Qualifications Authority for the purposes of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005
2.4 There are also examples of mandatory elected member training in other parts of the UK and further afield. This includes:
- In the district council of Wealdon in England, it is mandatory for all newly elected members to undergo training before they can sit on a planning committee
- In Ireland, the Association of Irish Local Government (AUKG) are the primary body representing the elected members. They ensure that all members receive appropriate and relevant training on an annual basis
- In South Australia there is an elected member training pathway programme where all 28 councils participate in the mandatory training programme and some members undertake further training above their standard mandatory training to obtain a national qualification
2.5 Although these may not be directly applicable to Scotland there are important lessons which can be learned.
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