On Friday 30 June, the Scottish Government and COSLA confirmed that Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and COSLA President Shona Morrison had signed the Verity House Agreement. The agreement establishes a renewed focus on respectful, collaborative, collegiate working between the Scottish Government and local authorities and identifies the following three key priorities for both parties:
1. Tackling poverty, particularly child poverty;
2. Economic transformation through a just transition to deliver net zero; and
3. Delivering sustainable person-centred public services.
The agreement also sets out how the Scottish Government and local government will work together and engage with one another positively going forward. The agreement is worth reading in its entirety, but a couple of particularly interesting points to note are:
- The Scottish Government's commitment to bringing the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots Law as early as possible. Aligned with the European Charter, the agreement sets out that both parties agree that the position on governance should be:
“local by default, national by agreement”.
- Where the Scottish Government is taking forward a national approach, there will be a presumption in favour of local flexibility in delivery where possible.
- Both parties will work together to conclude the Local Governance Review by the end of the current parliamentary term.
- The agreement establishes that, going forward, the default position will be no ring-fencing or direction of funding by central government, unless there is a clear understanding between the parties of the rationale for such ring-fencing.
- The Scottish Government’s Place Directors will act as ambassadors for Local Government and Community Planning Partnerships across portfolios and programmes.
- By the end of September this year, a Fiscal Framework between central and local government will be in place, with regular budget engagement representing a key part of this framework.
- By the end of October this year, parties will have undertaken a joint review of Specific Grants and In-Year Transfers to Local Government. The aim of this review is to identify those which can be baselined into the General Revenue Grant or General Capital Grant beginning in the financial year 2024/25.
Please don't hesitate to contact our market-leading Local Government team if we can offer any assistance or support in respect of this new agreement.