The European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill has been incorporated into Scots law after Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) voted unanimously to approve it.
Introduced by Andy Wightman MSP, the bill aims to strengthen local government in Scotland, which is made up of 32 councils.
The European Charter of Local Self-Government was created in 1985 by the Council of Europe and sets out 10 principles to protect the basic powers of local authorities with regards to their political, administrative and financial independence, and was ratified by the UK in 1997.
The Council of Europe is an international organisation that promotes democracy and protects human rights and the rule of law across the European continent and the UK is one of its 47 member states.
Mr Wightman stated that incorporating the European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill into Scots law would allow the charter to be directly relied upon to settle cases in the Scottish courts and would allow people and organisations to challenge the Scottish Government in court if its laws or decisions are not compatible with the charter.
The bill also has a section that puts a general duty to promote local government on the Scottish Government.
Commenting on Twitter, Mr Wightman said: “Delighted that my European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill is passed unanimously by Scottish Parliament. Thanks to all supporters. Culmination of decades of effort by COSLA and others.”
President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Councillor Alison Evison added: “I am absolutely delighted, it has been a long held ambition of COSLA to see this charter incorporated into domestic law.
“This is a major achievement for local government and for communities.
“It means that the status and standing of local government as the democratic representative of local communities will be strengthened by entrenching international legal rights into Scots law.
“This in turn will strengthen the voices of our local communities and help to achieve better outcomes, their agreed outcomes, with and for them.
“It will mean parity amongst government partners as we work together, for example on the National Performance Framework.
“Incorporation of the charter will formalise and embed better partnership working and ensure that subsidiarity is a default in policy making across the democratic system.
“Most importantly, it will help us achieve the lasting change around empowerment of communities that we are seeking.
“Finally, I would like to put on record our thanks to Andy Wightman MSP for introducing a private members bill on the charter, his role in getting us here today cannot be overstated.”