East and South Ayrshire Council bosses have welcomed the ‘reset’ of relations with the Scottish Government.

The Verity House Agreement aims to address a number of issues that have led to tensions between councils and the Scottish Government in the past, not least the ring fencing of funds that has limited the ability of councils to invest in their own priorities.

In recent years local government body COSLA has claimed that upward of 60 per cent of money councils receive from the Scottish Government is ring-fenced, as it is tied to specific national policies.

However, the Scottish Government has often taken a different interpretation. In 2021, then Depute First Minister John Swinney said that ring-fencing only accounted for seven per cent of the money Scotland’s councils had to spend.

The Verity House Agreement does not define exactly what interpretation of ring-fencing is being used.

First Minister Humza Yousaf and COSLA president Shona Morrison signed the agreement, which includes commitments around how funding is allocated, ring fencing is reduced and councils given greater control over budgets.

The Scottish Government has committed to reviews of council powers and funding and has pledged to follow the ‘expectation’ that services are delivered at a local level unless agreed otherwise.

East Ayrshire Council chief executive Eddie Fraser welcomed the agreement.
He said: “We particularly welcome the commitment to greater freedom and flexibility for councils and recognition that public service delivery should be person-centred and ‘local by default’.

“We look forward to working with COSLA and Scottish Government to reduce ring-fencing and to secure a process for early budget engagement.

A South Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “South Ayrshire Council welcomes the Verity House Agreement between the Scottish Government and CoSLA, and looks forward to working closely with both parties in the development of future local government funding settlements.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “This is just the start of the process, and we look forward to working further with COSLA and councils in the interests of the people of Scotland.”