The Scottish Government and COSLA have signed a landmark agreement setting out how local and national government will work more closely together.

It includes commitments around a new fiscal framework governing how councils’ funding is allocated and regular reviews of councils’ powers. ​Writing exclusively in the Herald on Sunday, First Minister Humza Yousaf explains the importance of the agreement and what it will mean for communities.

Upon becoming First Minister I made it clear that resetting our relationship with Local Government was of the utmost importance to me.

Council services touch on almost every aspect of our lives: the way our children are educated, the way we travel, the way our homes and communities are built.

They keep our streets clean, provide housing to those experiencing homelessness, and care for older people.

That is why I was so pleased to sign a New Deal with Local Government, with representatives of Scotland’s local authorities – the Verity House Agreement – that will form the basis of a new relationship between the Scottish Government and Local Government.

The Verity House Agreement has the potential to radically alter the way Local Government and the Scottish Government work together to best serve the people of Scotland.

It seeks to forge a stronger partnership between local and national government, empowering local communities.

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The agreement is based on an understanding that we share the same ultimate goals.

We all want to tackle poverty and provide opportunities for people regardless of their background.

We all want to grow the economy, taking advantage of the path to Net Zero to provide greater prosperity.

The Herald: First Minister Humza Yousaf and Cosla president Shona Morrison signing Verity House Agreement. Photo PA.First Minister Humza Yousaf and Cosla president Shona Morrison signing Verity House Agreement. Photo PA. (Image: PA)

And we all want to focus our attention and resources on providing vital public services – from schools, to housing, health and transport – at a high quality.

The Verity House Agreement sets out how we will work together to achieve these shared goals.

What that looks like will be different depending on the place. Something that works for a coastal town in Moray might not apply to a neighbourhood in central Glasgow or a tourist hotspot in the Borders.

Councils have the local knowledge to ensure services meet the needs of their communities. And the Verity House Agreement sets out the principles we will follow to put more power into their hands, so they can put that local knowledge into practice.

Read more: Reduction to council ringfenced funds as Yousaf resets relationship

Chief among these principles is that services and projects should be delivered at a local level unless agreed otherwise. Where issues that affect councils are delivered by the Scottish Government, local authorities will be involved in the process at the earliest opportunity. I know that COSLA and I share the desire to further devolve decision-making to our local communities.

We will give councils greater flexibility over their budgets, so they can direct their resources to where they’re needed most. Ringfencing may still be necessary in some limited circumstances, but this would only be with the agreement of councils.

And we will seek to empower councils to ensure they have what’s necessary to meet local needs.

These are just three of the principles in the Agreement, all underpinned by a belief in empowering local communities to address local issues.

Of course, the changes I have outlined here aren’t going to happen overnight. The relationship between the Scottish Government and local authorities is complex, with projects and issues that predate the Verity House Agreement.

Local authorities and unions are also continuing their negotiations over pay.

The Scottish Government has no formal role in these negotiations but, despite UK Government cuts, we have provided a further £155 million to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, which has been taken into account in the pay offer already made by COSLA.

We continue to urge all the parties involved to work together constructively and reach a fair, affordable agreement.

The Verity House Agreement is the start of the process to strengthen the relationship between local and national government.

It will be followed by a shared programme of work to put the principles we have agreed into action. There will be a new Fiscal Framework governing how councils’ funding is allocated. And I will meet regularly with the COSLA President to ensure councils have what they need to serve their communities.

The signing of the Verity House Agreement is an historical moment. It signals a new dawn in the relationship between two very important spheres of Government.

Working together, we will build a fairer, wealthier and greener Scotland.