We propose a new relationship of equals between the Scottish Government and local councils
Andy Wightman MSP, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (10 March) published a report urging a new relationship of equals between the Scottish Government and local councils.
The report, A Fiscal Framework for Local Government, points out that there are no fixed rules underpinning the way that local councils are funded by the Scottish Government.
In this year's budget discussions, Green MSPs pressed for and secured an additional £160million for local councils to spend on local priorities.
Mr Wightman's report highlights that decisions over local councils' funding are largely taken at Scottish Government-level, and that while the percentage of revenue devolved to Holyrood from Westminster has increased from 10 per cent in 1998 to 50 per cent with the new Scotland Act powers, local councils now raise less than 12 per cent of their own resources and through just one tax, the Council Tax.
The report comes in the same week as the Accounts Commission warned that only 14 councils have long-term financial strategies, and that annual funding settlements from the Scottish Government make this more challenging.
"Local services and democracy are being undermined by excessive central control. Successive Scottish Governments have treated councils as an afterthought rather than an equal partner despite the importance of local services.
"If we want a flourishing local democracy as is taken for granted elsewhere in Europe, we must increase fiscal autonomy and provide local government with a greater range of fiscal powers.
"The Commission on Local Tax Reform has already noted that councils are limited in their ability to raise additional revenue independently of the Scottish Government. Reform is clearly needed.
"A Local Government Fiscal Framework, similar to that which exists between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, would provide clarity, predictability and autonomy for our councils. I hope our report adds to the ongoing debate about the future of local democracy and local taxation."