Local authority structure and funding


Local government in Scotland is organised into 32 local authorities, which are responsible for providing a range of public services in the local area – services such as education, social work, community care, housing and promoting social inclusion.

Local authority areas reflect the geographical diversity of Scotland with wide variations in size (from 26 square miles in Dundee to 12,437 square miles in the Highlands) and population (from under 20,000 people in the Orkney Islands Council area to over 600,000 in the Glasgow City Council area). Read more on the COSLA website.

Each local authority is governed by a council directly elected by the population of the area they represent. Councils in Scotland are accountable to their electorates for the delivery of services. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is a local authority umbrella group which represents the collective interests of Scotland's councils and acts as an interface between local authorities and central government. However, four councils have left COSLA forming a separate Scottish Local Government Partnership, which the Scottish Government is statutorily obliged to deal with ahead of any new funding arrangements.

Funding for local authorities

Scottish councils’ total income in 2013/14 was £17.8 billion. The majority of this comes from Scottish Government funding (£10.3 billion) and the rest comes from council tax, fees for services they provide and housing rents.

Most of the 2013/14 Scottish Government funding (£9.6 billion) was for the day-to-day running of council services, including staff salaries. This is known as revenue funding. This is distributed to councils based on a range of indicators, including population, deprivation and pupil numbers. The remainder (£0.7 billion) was to buy, build or refurbish assets, such as buildings, roads and equipment. This is known as capital funding.

Councils spent a total of £18.6 billion on delivering services in 2013/14. The largest proportion of this spending was on education (30 per cent), followed by social work services (22 per cent). Growing demand for services and expected reductions in funding have led many councils to report a funding gap in 2015/16 and beyond.

The funding gap means that, to pay for services, councils will have to increase their income, improve efficiency, divert money from lower priority services, or a combination of these. For more on the figures listed in this section, visit the Audit Scotland website.

Find out more

This information was accurate as of May 2015. Download this information as a briefing sheet [PDF - 35kB], go back to the local authorities and HIV main page, or read the next section, about how local authorities design and deliver services.

Contact HIV Scotland for more detail, or to discuss.