What are the key issues at stake in the Scottish council elections?

People across the country will vote for who they want to run their local authority.

Scottish council election: What are the key issues at stake? iStock

People across Scotland will soon head to the polls to vote in the council elections.

Voters will make their decision on who they want to run their local authorities at the ballot box on May 5.

But what are each of the parties standing for, and what are the key issues at stake?

Here, STV News details some of the key pledges being set out the main parties who are standing candidates.

Cost of living

This will be a key issue for many people going into the election, with energy bills, fuel costs and the price of goods all rising.

The SNP has stated that its councils will work with the Scottish Government to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings, with the aim of making it more affordable to heat and power homes.

And the party has also committed to protecting the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The Scottish Conservatives have promised that their councils would call on the Scottish Government to introduce a ‘Help to Renovate’ scheme.

It would be aimed at supporting home upgrades as part of efforts to reduce heating costs and increase energy efficiency.

A £400 fuel costs payment for those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis is being proposed by Scottish Labour, with the party also seeking to update the energy efficiency of homes across the country.

The Scottish Greens have stated that their councillors will make energy efficiency of existing houses a priority.

And the Greens have also pledged to introduce rent controls as part of an effort to help empower tenants.

The Alba Party are proposing a £500 payment targeted at low earning households in receipt of council tax reduction.

Council tax

Tax rates were set by councils in March, with 22 of the 32 local authorities in Scotland deciding to increase council tax by 3%.

In this election, the SNP have pledged to scrap council tax for everyone under the age of 22 and with an aim to keep bills as low as possible.

The Scottish Conservatives have said that they would keep council tax low, as well as seeking to cut the tax for single adult households.

Scottish Labour are promising to abolish council tax, which they describe as ‘unfair’, in favour of an alternative system based on property values and the ability to pay.

The Scottish Greens are also aiming to end what they say is the ‘regressive’ council tax and replace it with a fairer system.

Replacing council tax is also a feature of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, whilst also aiming to support the restoration of local control over council tax.

A council tax freeze is being proposed by the Alba Party.


A greater number of walking and cycling routes in local authority areas are being pledged by the SNP, with funding to maintain pavements and pathways.

The party is also promising to maintain and expand bus services and for councils to work to promote uptake of concessionary travel schemes with free bus travel for under-22s.

Scottish Conservative councillors have committed to opposing the introduction of the workplace parking tax, and to support the roll out of electric vehicle charging points.

The Conservatives are also seeking to press the Government to carry out major road upgrades and to fully fund free travel for under-22s and over-60s on the Glasgow subway and the Edinburgh tram.

Scottish Labour is calling for councils to be equipped under the law to bring bus services under local ownership and control, as well as capping the cost of a bus journey at £1.80.

Better infrastructure to support electric vehicles, introducing an integrated travel ticketing system and opposition to the workplace parking also feature in Labour’s manifesto.

The Scottish Greens are looking to bring local buses back into public or social ownership, including the expansion of services and making them more affordable, while reducing transport emissions.

They are also supporting transition to electric vehicles, and aiming to connect communities with better bus services.

Children and young people

The SNP is aiming to provide free bikes to school-aged children for those who cannot afford them, and to extend free school meals to pupils in primaries six and seven.

They are also seeking to help oversee the recruitment of ‘at least’ 3500 additional teachers and classroom assistants across Scotland.

And the party wants to work with the Scottish Government to renew every play park in the country.

In their manifesto, the Scottish Conservatives outline the need for additional help for children to catch up on their education following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including a local tutoring scheme.

The Scottish Conservatives have also called for a pilot extension to the school day to further help pupils to catch up, and to fully fund the placement of dedicated STEM and PE teachers in every primary school.

Scottish Labour want to see an expansion of the Challenge Schools funding, an increase in free school meals and investment in additional support needs staff for those that require help.

They party has also pledged to ensure that schools have the resources needed to help pupils catch up on their disrupted education during the pandemic, as well as promising extra-curricular activities for all.

The Scottish Greens have said that pupils, parents and teachers should be given a ‘real voice’ in how schools are run and money is spent, with parent and pupil representatives on each council’s education committee.

The Greens are also supportive of more play-based learning and outdoor education for young people.

In the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, the party states it will campaign against the national testing of four and five-year-olds.

And they will support children and breakfast clubs in all schools, and increase the availability of free school meals.

Alba has pledged to guarantee free universal access for all children and young people to council sport facilities.

Local services

SNP councillors have pledged to work with the Government to protect and improve access to public and school libraries across Scotland, and to increase access to sporting, leisure and cultural opportunities in local communities.

The Scottish Conservatives are promising to keep community facilities, such as libraries, open, and to ensure more regular rubbish collections, as well as cutting down on illegal dumping and littering on streets.

Scottish Labour have said they will make it easier for people to dispose of their waste responsibly by increasing waste and recycling opportunities, as well as protecting libraries, and other facilities such as museums, galleries and theatres.

Scottish Green councillors have committed to supporting communities to develop litter prevention plans, as well as also seeking to reduce waste with less packaging, whilst developing a zero-waste plan.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are aiming to support measures to reduce waste, stating they will ’embrace’ the development of a circular economy.

You can read the manifestos of each party in full here: SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alba.

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