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Councillors' roles, conduct and pay

We determine the standards of conduct and basic pay of councillors in Scotland, as well as the maximum and minimum amounts that a senior councillor can be paid.

Each council is made up of councillors who are directly elected by the residents of the area they represent. There are 1,227 elected councillors in Scotland, who are normally elected every four years.

Councillors' roles

In addition to the full council, councillors will generally sit on one or more committees. The key roles taken by councillors are:

  • executive decision-making: councillors attend full meetings of the council, and some may have specific roles in relation to policy making, delivery of services and use of resources
  • scrutiny of decisions: councillors may serve on scrutiny panels, or committees which scrutinise existing policies and service delivery
  • regulatory functions: some council committees, such as those that deal with planning and licensing applications, have a quasi-judicial role
  • representing their ward: representing and meeting with the residents and interest groups within their ward and dealing with issues that they raise. In addition, councillors may attend community council meetings and serve on forums through which local issues can be discussed between elected members, council officers and the wider community

From time to time, councillors may also be involved in other areas, such as the development of new policies for the council.

Other organisations

Councillors may also sit on the boards of other organisations where the remit is related to that of the council. This could be collaborative bodies set up by a council to work with other public bodies, Arm's Length External Organisations (ALEOs) or statutory bodies such as Integration Joint Boards.

Code of conduct

We determine the standards of conduct that all councillors in Scotland must uphold in performing their duties. We set out these principles and rules in the councillors' code of conduct. Read more about accountability and standards of councils.

Becoming a local councillor

Scottish local government elections are held every four or five years and are open to anyone who has been registered to vote in the local authority area for the last 12 months, or has lived or worked in the area for that period.

How councillors are paid

We determine the basic pay of councillors in Scotland and this cannot be varied by individual councils. The Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 (Remuneration) Regulations 2007 set out the framework for paying a salary to councillors.

Since May 2017, the pay of councillors has been linked to the pay of Scottish public sector workers. This information is published annually by the Office of National Statistics in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE).

Pay and expenses for councillors

The basic annual pay for councillors from 4 May 2017 is £16,927, as set out in The Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 (Remuneration) Amendment Regulations 2017.

In addition to their salaries, councillors are eligible to join the Local Government Pension Scheme and entitled to payment of allowances for subsistence and travel, and reimbursement of expenses incurred when undertaking council duties.

Council banding

In the Regulations, we place each council into one of four bands based on various factors, including the size of the council budget.

The band determines the level of pay for senior posts within the council, namely the Leader of the Council, Civic Head and senior councillors (those with additional responsibilities, such as chairing a committee). The band also determines the maximum number of senior councillors which can be appointed by each council.

Council Leaders and Civic Heads

The rates for 2017 to 2018 are set out below:

Council band Councils Salary of Leader Salary of Civic Head
A Clackmannanshire; East Lothian; East Renfrewshire; Eilean Siar; Inverclyde; Midlothian; Moray; Orkney Islands; Shetland Islands; Stirling £28,213 £21,160
B Angus; Argyll and Bute; Dumfries and Galloway; Dundee City; East Ayrshire; East Dunbartonshire; Falkirk; North Ayrshire; Perth and Kinross; Renfrewshire; Scottish Borders; South Ayrshire; West Dunbartonshire; West Lothian £33,857 £25,392
C Aberdeen City; Aberdeenshire; Fife; Highland; North Lanarkshire; South Lanarkshire £39,497 £29,624
D City of Edinburgh; Glasgow City £50,783 £38,087

Senior councillors

In the Regulations we do not specify the pay for senior councillors, but set the maximum amount (75% of the pay of the Leader of the Council) and the minimum amount (the basic pay of a councillor) that a senior councillor can be paid.

The Regulations also specify the maximum amount of money which can be spent on senior councillor salaries by each council. It is then up to individual councils to decide how much to pay its senior councillors, who may be paid different amounts.

Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee

The framework for councillor pay arose from the work of the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) which met between 2008 and 2013 to advise Scottish Ministers on the payment by local authorities of remuneration (pay), pensions and allowances and on the reimbursement of expenses.