Elected Member Guidance and Briefings

The Elected Members' Briefing Series has been developed by the IS to help elected members keep apace with key issues affecting local government. A list of all briefings and notebooks published is below.

While some briefing notes are directly produced by IS staff, we also work with a wide range of public bodies, commentators and observers of public services to produce materials. If you are interested in contributing to our Briefing Series, please contact David Barr.

You might also be interested in information for elected members from other organisations we work with.

#FollowMe2: a Social Media Guide for Elected Members

A guide to how elected members can use social media for communications and overview of the most commonly used social media tools.

Trauma is Everybody's Business

This briefing highlights what we mean by psychological trauma, and the impact and prevalence of trauma across Scotland. It seeks to raise awareness of how trauma-informed services, systems and workforces can respond in a way that reduces barriers to support, supports people to recover from their experiences, improves people’s life chances, and supports workforce wellbeing. It also explores the key role that councillors and board members play in supporting the sustainable development of trauma-informed services, systems and workforces.

Mainstream Participatory Budgeting

This briefing note is intended to provide elected members with information on mainstream participatory budgeting (PB) as councils work towards meeting the 1% Community Choices Framework Agreement.

Wellbeing Frameworks

Scotland’s vision of a sustainable future is held within the National Performance Framework. The Framework is a wellbeing framework: a vision and approach to measuring performance that “gives equal importance to economic, environmental and social progress”. Local authorities and their elected members have a vital role in putting this framework into practice across Scotland. We have produced this briefing with Carnegie UK to support that, by unpacking what we mean by wellbeing and a wellbeing framework.

Early Learning and Childcare Expansion

This briefing aims to raise awareness of the key Scottish Government policy to increase the hours of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) available to young children. It highlights the successes achieved and challenges faced by local authorities in bringing this vision to realisation.

Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based solutions are about harnessing nature to help us deliver a range of outcomes. This briefing note sets out key features and principles for nature-based solutions and their contribution to a number of key Local Government priorities, such as climate change, COVID-19 recovery,  inclusive economic growth, communities and public health.

Gender Responsive Budgeting

Women and men experience the world differently and face different economic realities and challenges. They use public services differently and therefore decisions made to increase or decrease spending on services will impact women and men differently. This briefing aims to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of gender analysis within local authority budgetary processes.

Scrutinising Business Cases

This guidance will support elected members to more effectively scrutinise business cases presented to you by officers. The guidance highlights the type of information members should look and ask for from officers, to ensure they can make informed decisions. Sample questions that members can ask are also provided.

Tackling violence against women and girls: what about the men?

This briefing is one in a series raising awareness of the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls (VAWG) — otherwise known, and referred to, as gender-based violence — and highlighting some of the good practice around Scotland in tackling this issue. This briefing was shaped and informed by local Violence Against Women Partnerships and elected members at a participative workshop during 16 Days 2020. It explores the key role that men can play in preventing and challenging VAW and identifies key actions that professionals can undertake to help drive forward improved outcomes for both men and women within local communities.

20 Minute Neighbourhoods

The principle of a 20 minute neighbourhood is a place-based approach to enable more local living and thereby support everybody’s choices to enhance wellbeing for our people and planet. This briefing note sets out the key concepts and features for 20 minute neighbourhoods, and points to other issues to consider in delivering their ambition.

Taking a trauma-informed lens to Scotland’s COVID-19 recovery, renewal and transformation

This briefing aims to raise awareness of the impact of psychological trauma on individuals and communities. It highlights how adopting a trauma-informed approach to Scotland’s COVID-19 recovery, renewal and transformation agenda can support key priorities in building back better, including improving outcomes for vulnerable people and communities affected by trauma.

Supporting Political Groups to Work Remotely

With a move to remote working driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, this guide and self-assessment toolkit has been jointly developed by the Improvement Service (IS) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) to provide political groups with practical guidance on how to support new ways of working.

Community Wealth Building

Community wealth building is part of a placed-based approach which is gaining traction across the UK with a number of local authorities. Like all place-based approaches it seeks to reduce inequality, specifically seeking to take a proactive approach to supporting local inclusive economies.

This briefing note sets out the key concepts and strategies for community wealth building, and points to other useful sources of information.

Political Mentoring Handbook for Elected Members

Given the huge number of approaches, models and tools being used in mentoring, this handbook sets out key elements to frame and promote good mentoring practice within a political environment.

Child Poverty and COVID-19

This paper sets out the impact of COVID 19 on child poverty, highlighting the impacts across different policy areas. The paper encourages elected members to ensure that addressing child poverty remains a priority in their local area and any recovery and renewal plans address the issue of child poverty.

Transitioning to the new normal: Political Governance

Councils have adapted their political governance arrangements to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, often putting in place new arrangements at rapid pace.

This briefing summarises key findings on the arrangements in place in Scottish councils, as well as providing a perspective on the political governance arrangements in English councils.

Holding Virtual Surgeries

This is a first-person account by Councillor Laura Murtagh on holding virtual surgeries. Laura has been doing this prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and has kindly shared how she does this.

Violence Against Women is a Public Health Issue

This briefing aims to highlight the need to tackle violence against women and girls in order to achieve Scotland’s public health priorities. It shows that all forms of VAWG are linked to Scotland’s new public health priorities, and suggests how elected members can consider these links in their work in their local communities.

Regional Approaches to Maximising Inclusive Economic Growth

This briefing is intended to provide elected members with an update on recent work to examine the nature and extent of regional approaches to maximising inclusive economic growth across Scottish local authorities. It covers the drivers of regional working and the reasons why councils have been adopting regional approaches, and sets out some of the opportunities and challenges.

The Gendered Nature of Poverty

This briefing aims to raise awareness of the gendered nature of poverty in Scotland and the role of violence against women and girls in sustaining poverty. It also provides suggestions of the ways that elected members can help support a joined-up, strategic approach to be taken to tackling the poverty experienced by women and children within local communities.

Why is Violence Against Women and Girls a Community Justice Issue?

(A summary of this briefing is available)

The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of the strategic links between violence against women and community justice in Scotland, and provide suggestions of the ways that elected members can help support local VAW Partnerships and Community Justice Partnerships to work collaboratively to address shared priorities.

Children, Young People and Domestic Abuse: Impact, Support and Recovery

The briefing aims to raise awareness of how children and young people are affected by domestic abuse, highlight specialist services available in Scotland to support children affected by domestic abuse and suggest how elected members can provide support in improving outcomes for children.

Fairer Scotland Duty

(A summary of this briefing is available)

The Fairer Scotland Duty came into force on 1 April 2018, enacting part 1 of the Equality Act 2010, in Scotland. It places a duty on certain public bodies in Scotland to consider how to reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage. This briefing note provides a summary of the key aspects of the duty and how local authorities might go about meeting the duty.

Inclusive Growth

This briefing note provides background and explores: the practical importance of ‘inclusive growth’ for elected members; the key delivery role of local authorities; and how operationalising these objectives can improve economic outcomes and lead to a wider range of sustainable improvements in key outcome areas.

Scottish Citizens Basic Income Feasibility Project

The briefing aims to provide an introduction to the concept of Citizens Basic Income (CBI) and an overview of the progress of a project researching the feasibility of testing CBI in Scotland. It sets out the definition of CBI, the rationale for exploring testing in Scotland, and an update on the progress of the feasibility project.

Affordable Credit

This briefing note defines what is meant by affordable credit and why it is important, highlights some examples of affordable credit that are currently being supported by local authorities, summarises why this is a relevant issue for elected members, and outlines some issues that elected members may wish to consider regarding this subject.

Local Child Poverty Action Reports

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 20171 sets out ambitious targets for the Scottish Government to significantly reduce child poverty in Scotland by 2030. The Act also places a duty on local authorities to work together with health boards to develop, produce and deliver Local Child Poverty Action Reports (LCPARs). The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of this duty and highlight the important contribution that local authorities and partners can make to the reduction of child poverty.

Why Adopt a Gendered Analysis of Violence and Abuse?

The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of the causal relationship between gender inequality and violence against women, and provide suggestions of the ways that elected members can help promote women’s equality.

Money Advice Services - Investing in the Future

This briefing note seeks to highlight how community-based money advice services, targeted at individuals who are the most socially and economically disadvantaged, can make a significant contribution to reducing poverty and improving individual health and wellbeing.

Scottish Mental Health Strategy

Recent data from the Scottish Public Health Observatory found that depression causes more years of poor health than all but two other diseases.This briefing sets out the main aims of the Scottish Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027.

Health Inequalities and Improving Health

Health inequalities are the unjust and avoidable differences in people’s health across the population and between specific population groups. The purpose of this briefing is to highlight the crucial role of elected members in reducing health inequalities and improving health. Success in reducing health inequalities and improving and protecting health and wellbeing relies on evidence informed policy, planning, practice and review.

Alcohol Harm in Communities

This briefing note from Alcohol Focus Scotland aims to increase understanding amongst elected members of how alcohol consumption and harm impacts on local communities and across different areas of local authorities’ work. It will examine the role elected members can play in tackling the harms caused in their communities and improving local outcomes.

Chief Social Work Officer

The purpose of this briefing note is to advise elected members of the role and functions of the chief social work officer and to support effective partnership working between the chief social work officer and elected members.

Civil Contingencies and Emergency Preparedness

This briefing has been produced in conjunction with the Local Authorities Resilience Group Scotland (LARGS), whose purpose is to work together as a specialist resilience stakeholder group to assist in the development of resilience policy at a national level and ensure that all local authorities in Scotland are working to achieve a best practice approach to common issues and standards of working.


Councils in Scotland spend more than £5.4 billion each year on goods and services which support the delivery of essential public services. This briefing note will help elected members understand why good procurement practice matters to local authorities and examine the ways in which it can help to address challenges faced by the public sector.

Health and Social Care Integration

The briefing covers the role and interests of councils as a statutory integration partner in health and social care, and as a democratic sphere of government accountable to people in communities for the services they receive.

Self-directed Support

This briefing is intended to inform elected members of the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013; specifically, its intention and implementation. The Act sits within the 10-year Self-directed Support Strategy, aimed at shifting the balance of power to people so they have more choice and control over their social care support.


It is acknowledged meeting the needs of Gypsy/Travellers and settled communities is complex and sensitive, and can present a significant challenge for elected members. The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of a suite of guidance and briefings relating to Gypsy/Travellers.

Humanitarian Protection

Scottish local authorities have a great deal of expertise in supporting the most vulnerable in society, including those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in our country. This briefing summarises the various humanitarian protection schemes that are currently in operation and the central role that Scottish local authorities have been playing to support them.

Care Inspectorate

This note gives an overview of the Care Inspectorate – Scotland’s scrutiny and improvement organisation for social care and social work, which also works across early learning and childcare, community justice and integrated health and social care.

The Importance of Financial Capability in Scotland

The purpose of this briefing is to give elected members better insight into financial capability and encourage greater understanding of its importance. It is our hope that elected members will use this information to influence local government policies, provide leadership, and facilitate and negotiate solutions to the current low level of financial capability in the UK.

Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014

The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 provides the framework for the integration of health and social care services in Scotland. Integration of health and social care has been introduced to change the way key services are delivered, with greater emphasis on supporting people in their own homes and communities and less inappropriate use of hospitals and care homes.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is the final stage for complaints about most organisations that provide public services in Scotland. This briefing explains the role of the SPSO in relation to councils and councillors.

The Standards Commission for Scotland

The Standards Commission is an independent body whose purpose is to encourage high ethical standards in public life through the promotion and enforcement of Codes of Conduct for Councillors and those appointed to the Boards of Devolved Public Bodies. This briefing note focuses on the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and elected members.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation

The purpose of this briefing note is to challenge current thinking and encourage a shared understanding of the harm caused through commercial sexual exploitation and the contributing factors and drivers behind it.

Engaging Men in Tackling Violence Against Women

The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness amongst elected members of the role that men can play in tackling violence against women (VAW). It will detail how men’s engagement can lead to effective prevention and challenging of VAW, and provide suggestions of how elected members can facilitate this.

Preventing and Eradicating Domestic Abuse

This briefing is one in a series of elected member briefings raising awareness of the different forms of violence against women and highlighting some of the good practice around Scotland.

Effective Board Membership

This notebook provides guidance for elected members who may be required to sit on boards, e.g. Integration Joint Boards (IJBs) for Health and Social Care, and Community Planning Partnership (CPP) boards


This notebook is intended as an aid to scrutiny for elected members. Whether or not you are involved directly in your council’s scrutiny function, understanding how scrutiny works and how to apply the skills upon which effective scrutiny depends will help you across the broad range of roles you are called upon to undertake as an elected member. Importantly, it will also give you the knowledge and techniques you need to be an effective member of a scrutiny committee.

A shorter notebook for elected members that want an overview of the key points of scrutiny without the level of detail contained in this notebook is also available.

The Planning System in Scotland: An Introduction for Elected Members

Elected members have an important role to play in the planning system through their general duties as a ward member, but also through positions on the Local Review Body, Executive Board or full council. This guide aims to help members understand what the planning system seeks to achieve and introduces the processes involved in decision-making.

David Barr - Project Manager, Organisational Development