Cllr Alison Evison - COSLA President

This article forms part of the LGA's Re-thinking local think piece series.

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Councils have been at the heart of the response to Covid-19 in Scotland from distributing food and medicines to the shielded community, to ensuring children continue to have access to their education in the most difficult of circumstances, as well as delivering immediate economic supports to local businesses and individuals. In the same vein, councils will be essential to the recovery process in Scotland. 

There is no doubt that recovery from this unprecedented pandemic will be challenging, particularly as the financial consequences of COVID-19 have been severe and have placed an exceptional pressure on Council finances. However, recovery also presents opportunities to drive public service reform with local knowledge and experience at the very forefront of policy design and delivery, and through the engagement and involvement of communities across the length and breadth of Scotland.  

Recovery presents opportunities to drive public service reform with local knowledge and experience at the very forefront of policy design and delivery

Whilst no part of Scottish life has been untouched by the COVID-19, there are several areas of key importance when considering recovery in the local government context in Scotland and these are touched on below:

  • Health and Social Care – Scotland’s health and social care staff have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19, responding to the most challenging of circumstances. Recovery efforts will reflect the health and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic along with the opportunities and challenges there may be moving forward. 
  • Economy and the Environment – Councils have led on interventions to protect local economies, people and communities from the worst financial impacts of Covid-19. As work progresses it is important that there is a place-based and people focused approach to economic recovery with inclusion, environmental sustainability, resilience, fair work and wellbeing at its core.
  • Education and Children and Young People – Councils have been at the centre of recovery work aimed at the ensuring that the delivery of education maintains a strong focus on excellence and equity for all, while ensuring the safety of our children and young people.
  • Supporting Vulnerable Communities – Social recovery will be central to driving progress towards a fairer, more equal Scotland in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. An inclusive recovery will be key, one that supports our most vulnerable citizens and communities and which has a strong focus on protecting human rights and tackling poverty and inequality.

COSLA has established a Recovery Special Interest Group, chaired by the Vice-President and comprising COSLA’s President and five policy spokespersons to develop political direction from local government to shape the medium to longer term recovery work as Scotland seeks to rebuild strong, stable and sustainable communities following on from the emergency response to COVID-19.

It is also clear that the only way we can progress towards recovery across our public services and the communities they support is through impactful partnership working. Throughout the emergency period, COSLA has worked in conjunction with council leaders, chief executives and a variety of local government professional associations to secure a swift and effective initial response to the pandemic.  Building on this is essential to the recovery process, as will ensuring that collaborative working takes both nationally and locally and across a wide variety of sectors. That is why local government in Scotland will continue to engage vigorously with the Scottish Government, businesses across Scotland, the voluntary sector and our trade union partners in the coming weeks and months with the goal of ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery with wellbeing at its heart.