COSLA - Your Local Voice, Nationally

Who we are

COSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, is the representative voice of Scottish local government, lobbying on behalf of our members – Scotland’s 32 Councils.

Formed in 1975, we exist to promote and protect the interests of Councils in Scotland and the people and communities they serve by representing their views to central government, other bodies and the public. Our priorities include promoting the role of local government as a vital sphere of government in Scotland; championing local services, local leadership and local accountability; and working with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to influence public policy and to fight for resources.

All 32 of Scotland’s Councils are members of COSLA. Together they represent over 5 million people, spend around £12 billion a year on local services, and employ over 260,000 people.

As a membership organisation, one of our highest priorities is to maintain and enhance our relationship with member Councilsand the key principles which underpin our activities recognise that the way we work is as important as what we do. COSLA’s aim is to enable elected members of different political persuasions to participate fully in local government and contribute to the development of policies for local government. We work closely with our member authorities to ensure that we target our efforts on the issues that matter most to them. 

We also act as the employers’ organisation for all Scottish Councils, negotiating salaries, wages and conditions of service for local government employees and addressing workforce development issues.

COSLA’s purpose is to be the national voice for local government in Scotland and our high priority work areas reflect our commitment to promote the position of local government as the legitimate tier of governance closest to the people of Scotland.

COSLA’s political decision making system is designed to ensure that its member Councils are at the heart of the policy development process. It places member Councils at its heart, and allows COSLA to respond quickly to events and set a forward looking agenda for local government.

We strive to enable elected members of different political groups to have the opportunity to contribute to COSLA’s work and to develop policies for local government which represent, as far as possible, consensus between our political groups. We also draw on the support and advice of professional associations and Council officers to provide professional expertise throughout the policy development process.

The Convention is the ruling body which has overall control of COSLA’s policy and direction. It meets four times a year and consists of representatives from all member Councils and political groups representing Scottish local government.

The main decision making body is the Leaders Meeting which is held eight times each year and which is attended by the political leaders from all member Councils.

Responsibility for development of key policies rests with Spokespersons, each of whom has responsibility for a major policy area. The posts of Spokesperson are allocated on a cross-party basis, according to each political party’s representation on the Convention. Each Spokesperson is charged with developing strategy and policy for a major policy area. Each Spokesperson also oversees and Chairs an Executive Group based on their themed policy area, supported by the relevant team leader for that area.

The system is designed to ensure that a wide range of Councillors from across the political spectrum and across Scotland are fully involved in the policy development process. In parallel, professional associations and officers provide professional expertise to assist in the policy development process.

How we work

COSLA’s organisational structure consists of a Senior Management Team (SMT) led by the Chief Executive of the organisation, Rory Mair, and inter- disciplinary themed teams.

The SMT’s role is to focus on driving forward genuinely strategic issues – the high-level priorities, the strategic use of resources needed to achieve them, direction and development of all staff, and performance monitoring.

COSLA’s themed teams are the core of COSLA’s staffing structure and the “engine room” of the organisation. 

The teams’ themes are a combination of service-driven and process-driven areas. They are not tied to traditional local authority services and functions although specific services and functions will be covered by some teams.

The remits of the themed teams assist COSLA to develop an effective, pro-active, and holistic approach to policy development on behalf of its members. Each themed team is led by a Chief Officer and contains a mix of Policy Managers, Policy Officers and Support Staff. Each team has its own remit and areas of responsibility, and each has a Political Spokesperson that leads in that particular service area.

We also have a dedicated team in Brussels that leads COSLA’s work in Europe.


Image, Media and Communication

The Image, Media and Communications Team is responsible for all COSLA’s communications work - from media management, news releases, media briefings, media enquiries and press liaison to internal communications such as the new suite of modules in the COSLA Connections range. The team is also responsible for all central and corporate services, The COSLA and IS Annual Conference, The Excellence Awards and managing the COSLA Conference Centre, reception, and information technology. Responsible for the Presidential Team and Spokespersons.

Education, Children and Young People

The Children and Young People Team leads on education and children’s services for COSLA. Its remit covers a child’s life from pre-birth through to post 16 education. The team’s work includes promoting and integrating children’s services, developing effective approaches to children & family social work, and addressing child protection and youth justice issues. Spokesperson Cllr Douglas Chapman (Fife).

Community Resourcing

The Community Resourcing Team’s remit is to promote the wellbeing and safety of communities across Scotland by securing the policies, powers and resources to enable Councils to respond flexibly to local needs in promoting safe, healthy, socially cohesive and active communities; in ensuring quality, affordable housing; in providing access to cultural, sporting, learning and recreational opportunities; and in tackling poverty and disadvantage. Spokesperson Cllr Harry McGuigan (North Lanarkshire).

Employers’ Organisation

The Employers’ Organisation manages the delivery of strategic workforce priorities for Scottish local government and provides a national support service on human resource issues. The team leads on the development of industrial relations and employee development issues. As such, it provides support to help Councils develop flexible and productive workforces, ensure an affordable and flexible pay, reward and conditions system and works to enable Councils to respond effectively to challenges they face by addressing critical workforce issues. Spokesperson Cllr Billy Hendry (East Dunbartonshire).

Development, Economy and Sustainability

The Development, Economy and Sustainability Team covers a wide range of policy issues and Council services, interlinked by the key overarching drivers of developing local government’s role

in promoting and enabling sustainable economic development in Scotland; delivering services within the context of a shift towards a Low Carbon, Zero Waste and Innovative society; and the over-arching impact of the European Union across Scottish local government. Spokesperson Cllr Stephen Hagan (Orkney Islands Council).

Health and Social Care

COSLA’s Health and Well-being Team is committed to working with our partners to develop and implement policies and practices that help individuals and families to improve their health and well-being, especially in the most disadvantaged communities. Our central objective is to ensure Councils in Scotland can provide sustainable, accessible, personalised and high quality health and social care services that are accountable to the electorate. Spokesperson Cllr Peter Johnston (West Lothian).

Local Government Finance

The Local Government Finance Team seeks to ensure that Councils receive adequate funding for services and that this is based on robust costing of services and initiatives. The team also has a key role in ensuring that Councils are represented professionally in financial discussions and to ensure that financial flexibility is promoted at all levels. Spokesperson Cllr Kevin Keenan (Dundee).

Business Gateway

Business Gateway offers information, advice and guidance across the whole of Scotland to people thinking about starting up in business or growing their existing businesses. The Business Gateway National Unit is located within COSLA and provides national functions to support the delivery of services at a local level. Spokesperson Cllr Stephen Hagan (Orkney Islands Council).

Migration Partnership

COSLA Strategic Migration Partnership (CSMP) is a policy team within COSLA that deals with a wide range of issues relating to migration and population. The team is funded by the UK and Scottish Governments to provide strategic and political oversight on migration issues in a Scottish context.


Our Europe team works to ensure that the interests and rights of Scottish local government are safeguarded and advanced by EU policy and legislation. Key to our work is the ability to effectively forecast development and to actively influence policy and legislative stages at the earliest possible moment. We advise Scottish MEPs on legislation affecting local government and support the work of the Scottish Councillors who are members of the EU Committee of the Regions. COSLA is also an active member of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) – the EU umbrella body for local government – and the European Local Authority Network. We work closely with other national associations of local government and with other Scottish public bodies based in Brussels, particularly the Scottish Government.