On Tuesday 10 May 2022, the John Smith Centre proudly hosted Councillor Alison Evison, as part of our Power Hour series.

Alison is a former president of CoSLA, the national organisation that represents all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. In May’s local governnment elections, she was re-elected as a councillor in Aberdeenshire.  Alison stood as an independent candidate, having previously been a Scottish Labour councillor, and now represents the Mearns ward. Alison was a teacher before entering politics.

Alison joined Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale in conversation about her upbringing, her journey into politics and the challenges in local government.

The full 60-minute session is available to watch or listen to again here, but here are some highlights from our Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale.

1) Increasing diversity

In May’s local government elections, the number of women elected increased by 6%. In this clip, Alison talks about why she’s hopeful diversity has improved, but with plenty of work still to do.

2) Salary issues

The basic annual salary for a councillor in Scotland is £19,571. This compares to £64,470 for an MSP and £84,144 for an MP. Alison said a survey carried out by CoSLA found the salary was putting off people from more diverse backgrounds standing for local government. She says she will be holding the Scottish Government to their pledge to look at this issue promptly following May’s elections.

3) Ringfencing 

Councils have to make decisions on how to spend their budgets, but increasingly they have to ringfence large amounts of money to implement policies from the Scottish Government. In this clip, Alison explains why this is increasingly challenging for local government.

4) Tensions between local and national governments

Kezia asked Alison if it was fair that tensions were increasing between councils and the Scottish Government over ringfencing and pushing national priorities. Alison agreed that could be the case in some instances, but local government needed greater control over how it spends its budget with a new fiscal framework.

5) National Care Service

The Scottish Government launched a consultation on a National Care Service for Scotland with a pledge to bring forward legislation to set one up. The results of the consultation were due to be published before May’s elections but have yet to be unveiled. In this clip, Alison explains why local government has some concerns about the plans, while arguing change in this area could happen sooner.

Everyone at the John Smith Centre would like to thank Councillor Alison Evison for giving us an hour of her time, and such an interesting insight into the work and challenges facing local government.