Local Government in Scotland doesn’t work. Compared to our European neighbours, councils are too remote from they people they serve and too tightly controlled by the national government. Following a decade of budgetary pressures the tide may turning on financial centralisation. But no amount of devolution to the current 32 councils can truly empower local communities, or re-connect them with their elected representatives. 25 years after Scotland’s last Local Government re-organisation it’s time to recognise how flawed it was and undo the damage.
New Municipalism: A Refreshed Map for Local Government in Scotland is one outline for that re-organisation. Building on the basic principles of (now) Green MSP Andy Wightman’s 2014 report “Renewing Local Democracy“, it envisions a return to traditional two-tier local governance with 128 Municipalities and 10 Regional Councils. Crucially, whilst this report includes specific examples of redrawn boundaries, it does so simply to serve as a useful example. Any genuine re-organisation process would need to involve and be informed by substantially more genuine democratic engagement than any of the preceding Local Government acts.
The complete report can be found below, alongside appendices outlining each region. Please note that the appendices are pretty dry, but include a detailed map of each proposed municipality. Just make sure to click the image in the PDF to be taken to the full-sized version on this website.
- New Municipalism: A Refreshed Map for Local Government in Scotland Report
- Appendix A – Ayrshire Region
- Appendix B – Clyde Region
- Appendix C – Dumfries and Galloway Region
- Appendix D – Fife Region
- Appendix E – Forth Region
- Appendix F – Grampian Region
- Appendix G – Highland Region
- Appendix H – Lanarkshire Region
- Appendix I – Lothian and Borders Region
- Appendix J – Tayside Region
- Appendix K – Unitary Authorities
An interactive map of these proposed boundaries is available here. It’s a reasonably hefty size, so give it a minute or so to load. Clicking a municipality will give you a handy pop-up box with details including its name, population, largest town and number of councillors. If you hover over the tile at the top right of the page, you’ll also be able to toggle to a second layer showing notional election results in each municipality.
Scotland’s Jumbo Councils
Although the full context is contained within the report, it’s worth a very brief stand-alone look at how Scotland compares with the rest of Europe. Jumbo-sized local councils are peculiar to the British and Irish Isles, with councils in both Ireland and in the UK covering populations many times larger than is normal on the continent.
Whereas Scotland’s 32 Councils cover an average population of 169,500 people, the largest councils on the continent are almost three times smaller, as Denmark’s 98 councils cover an average population of 58,878 residents. The reform proposed in the New Municipalism paper would bring the Scottish figure down to 42,375 – a quarter of the current level and far closer to the European norm.