The Scottish Conservatives have set out their vision for local government ahead of council elections on 4 May. Here are some of the key points from the manifesto, which can be read in full here.
While opposing independence is at the heart of the Tory campaign, local democracy takes top billing in the manifesto. The party says the Scottish government "has for too long seen local government as an obstacle in pursuit of a central agenda".
They want a more flexible local government structure, and call for:
- Directly elected provosts
- More powers over planning, taxation and capital spending so councils can be "engines of growth"
- Local growth partnerships and growth accelerators rolled out across Scotland
- Councils to have a role in setting up new national parks and district heating networks
- Environmental protection alongside economic development, including a target of a 75% recycling rate by 2035
The Tories describe themselves as "the party of fair taxation", saying it is "crucial" for tax powers to be used responsibly and with economic growth in mind.
The manifesto commits them to campaign for:
- Council tax bills staying "as low as possible"
- Business rates reform towards a "simpler" system with councils keeping all their business rates income
- Greater control over land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT) for councils
- An extension of the 5% band of LBTT to properties valued £500,000
- A fiscal framework for the relationship between local and central government
Education and health
The manifesto bundles together education and health as twin issues, aiming for an "educated and healthy population". The Tories target autonomy, diversity and teaching excellence in schools, childcare targeted at the youngest, and a flexible skills system.
- Permission to set up a broader range of "government-funded but autonomous" schools, where there is demand
- Extended childcare provision targeting a higher proportion of disadvantaged one and two-year-olds
- Basic literacy and numeracy and "fact-based learning" at the heart of the curriculum
- Access to school buildings in the evenings at a weekends for leisure trusts and community groups
- Mental health support in GPs surgeries and A&E departments around the clock
- Better funding for health and social care partnership
Planning and housing
The Tories highlight the relationship between economic growth and population growth, saying housing "has to become a priority for all levels of government" in coming years.
They will campaign for:
- 100,000 new homes built across the country across the next four years
- 30,000 empty properties across Scotland brought back into use and a "help to rebuild" scheme
- Reforms to the planning system improving consultations but limiting appeals to central government
- Councils to offer fast-track decision making, in exchange for a "fee supplement"
- Brownfield land registers and a presumption this land is available for housing developments
- Power for councils to offer council tax discounts to first-time buyers to encourage home ownership
- Investment of £1bn in energy efficiency schemes, with the target of there being no hard to heat homes by 2030
Transport and infrastructure
The Conservatives argue that physical and digital infrastructure are vital to local growth, aiming to expand broadband access and improve the currently "mixed" state of the country's roads.
The manifesto calls for:
- A central road maintenance fund to help speed up pothole repair
- A capital infrastructure fund for local growth partnerships
- Power over bus franchising made available to local authorities
- Expansion of the Community Broadband Scotland scheme
- At least one cycles-only route in each of Scotland's cities