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Local authorities and economic development in Scotland

McQuaid, Ronald W


Ronald W McQuaid


The recently published Consultation Paper on the reform of local government in Scotland presents options which will have profound effects upon economic development activities of Scottish local authorities. In order to promote an informed debate on these proposals and to ensure that the role of local authorities is fully understood and recognised, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) commissioned a report to identify the breadth, scale and importance of their activities in the field of economic development. 1/ This was published in September 1992.
Before discussing the findings of the report it is worth mentioning some differences between economic development support in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain and why the findings may be of interest to those south of the border. First, for over 15 years local authorities have been operating closely with regional development agencies - Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and their Local Enterprise Companies (Lecs). 2/ Such agencies affect the way local authorities operate in the field of economic development but they also widen the relevant powers of the public sector overall. Proposals for similar types of agencies for England have been put forward by various bodies and political parties (including for example the recent Prince's Working Group on Innovation) and are being used as a model for local economic development in parts of Eastern Europe such as Hungary under the European Commission's Phare Programme.

Second, there is generally a strong tradition of partnership working in Scotland. For example, the government's major initiative for peripheral estates, New Life for Urban Scotland, explicitly recognises the key role of local authorities, which is in marked contrast to the experience with Urban Development Corporations in England. Numerous area-based and other initiatives throughout the country have commonly involved other agencies and the local communities as well as local authorities, with the prospect of SE/Lec external funding and the experience of good-practice elsewhere providing strong incentives for partnership.

The COSLA report is based upon reponses to a detailed questionnaire in early 1992 by all 12 Regional and Island Authorities (broadly equivalent to County Councils) and 50 of the 53 District Councils (although 8 small rural Districts did not complete the questionnaire replying that they did little in the field of economic development, leaving such activity to the Regional Council). 3/ In addition to aggregate data on answers by each tier of local government, the report is illustrated by a large number of individual case studies.


McQuaid, R. W. (1992). Local authorities and economic development in Scotland. Local work : CLES bulletin, 1-7

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 1992
Deposit Date Sep 28, 2009
Publicly Available Date Sep 28, 2009
Print ISSN 0950-3080
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-7
Keywords Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; COSLA; economic development; regions; Scottish Enterprise; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Local Enterprise Companies LECs; New Life for Urban Scotland; public policy;
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