Disqualification criteria for councillors: consultation on updating disqualification criteria for local authority members

Closed 9 Aug 2023

Opened 17 May 2023

Results expected 23 Aug 2023

Feedback expected 26 Sep 2023


Local authority members (i.e. councillors) take strategic decisions that affect all our lives. They decide how best to use taxpayers’ money and manage local authority resources, including property, land and assets. They also have a leading role to play in building and preserving a society where the rights and freedoms of individuals are respected.

It is vital, therefore, that they have the trust of the communities they serve.

The Scottish Government considers that there should be consequences where the behaviour of councillors, and those seeking to become councillors, falls short of that expected of anyone in a free, inclusive and tolerant society and, has led to enforcement action against an individual.

The proposals in this consultation paper apply to local authorities in Scotland only. They do not apply to local authorities elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Current law

Existing legislation prevents individuals standing, or holding office, as a local authority member if they have, within five years prior to the day of the election, or since their election, been convicted in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man of any offence and have received a custodial sentence, suspended or not, for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine.

Reason for this consultation

This consultation is seeking views on making changes to Section 31 of the Local
Government (Scotland) Act 1973
, disqualification for nomination, election and holding office as member of local authority, to reflect changes to the criminal justice system that have been made since the Act was originally passed.

We are seeking views regarding whether individuals subject to the sex offender notification requirements under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 should be barred from holding the position of councillor in a local authority.

Individuals with criminal convictions for sexual offences

At present, some individuals may be subject to Sex Offender Notification Requirements under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (“SONR”), more commonly known as being on the Sexual Offenders Register, but not receive a custodial sentence of imprisonment which falls within the scope of the existing legislation disqualifying persons from holding office. Given that councillors frequently engage with a diverse range of people within their communities, often on a one-to-one basis, we are concerned that some individuals subject to SONR could potentially pose a risk to vulnerable individuals.

The Scottish Government considers that the law should be updated to prevent individuals who are currently subject to SONR from being an elected member of a local authority for as long as they are subject to those notification requirements. This would apply even if a custodial sentence of less than 3 months, or no custodial sentence at all, has been imposed.

Read the consultation paper.

Why your views matter

We are seeking the views of the public and stakeholders as to whether you agree with this proposed change and, if it is considered a proportionate response to the potential risk posed, taking into account the possible vulnerabilities of people approaching councillors, potentially for one-to-one consultations.

We think it is important that individuals that have contact with councillors have the opportunity to express their opinion on this proposed change.

What happens next

Responses will be analysed and advice passed to Ministers to decide whether or not to proceed with the change. A decision is likely in the Autumn.


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