The Scottish Parliament's think-tank

Central and Local Government: Building for the Future

A half-day conference with the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee on the relationship between local and central government.


The conference brought together MSPs and a range of stakeholders from central and local government, academia, and the public, private and third sectors to explore what is required to improve the relationship between local and central government.

In particular, participants considered financial relationships in the need to deliver shared and local priorities.

The event formed part of the Committee’s work on the local governance review and provided all participants with an opportunity to consider lessons from other countries whilst exploring the opportunities and challenges for future relations in Scotland.

The workshop discussions were held under the Chatham House rule. An event report will be published by the Futures Forum in due course.


09:30 Welcome and introduction: Esther Roberton, Scotland’s Futures Forum director and Ariane Burgess MSP, convenor of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee

Keynote Introductions

  • Joe FitzPatrick MSP, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning
  • Councillor Steven Heddle, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities


  • Professor James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy, the University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Local Government Information Unit

Workshop groups, covering:

  1. Building the future: options and implications of change
  2. Tensions and barriers
  3. Ways forward and next steps

Event chair

Esther Roberton, Director of Scotland's Futures Forum

Esther Roberton is an expert in civic, corporate and constitutional governance and passionate advocate for a new route map to Scotland’s future. 

She has spent a lifetime in public service, most recently as Chair of NHS Lothian and before that Chair of NHS24 and as a Non-Executive Director of the Scottish Government. In 2017 she was asked to chair the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation for the Scottish Government and was a Press Complaints Commissioner from 2007 to 2014. 


Ariane Burgess MSP

Ariane Burgess MSP has represented the Highlands and Islands Region since 2021. She is Convener of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee and a member of the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP

Joe FitzPatrick MSP is Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning.

Born in Dundee in 1967, Joe was educated at Whitfield High School. He studied forestry at Inverness College and worked for the Forestry Commission before gaining a first-class honours degree in science from Abertay University. 

A former Dundee City Councillor, Joe was elected in May 2007 to the Scottish Parliament, where he represents the Dundee West (now Dundee City West) constituency. 

Dr Jonathan Carr West

Jonathan Carr-West has been Chief Executive (CE) of Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) since February 2013 where he leads on all aspects of the think tank’s policy, membership and influencing work. Prior to being appointed as CE, Jonathan was Director of Policy at the LGIU, where he led on research and consultancy, policy development and piloting, best practice dissemination and learning and development.   

Councillor Steven Heddle

Councillor Steven Heddle first joined the COSLA team as the Environment and Economy spokesperson in 2017. He is currently Vice President, where he has a number of roles including engaging with the Scottish Government at Cabinet level, as well as providing political leadership. Steven has represented the Kirkwall East ward of Orkney Islands Council, as an independent Councillor, since 2007 – he was the leader of the Council from 2012 to 2017. 

Professor James Mitchell

Professor James Mitchell is Professor of Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh, having joined the School in April 2013. His interests are primarily in territorial politics, public policy and government and political behaviour.

Professor Mitchell previously held Chair in Public Policy at the University of Sheffield (1998-2000) and Chair in Politics at the University of Strathclyde (2000-2013).


LOGO of the Royal Society of Edinburgh