Comment by Mark Irvine

COSLA – the umbrella body for Scotland’s councils – has been all over the airwaves today blathering on about the need for a ‘respect’ agenda with the newly elected Scottish government.

Now I’m all in favour of ‘respect’.

But it cuts both ways and, in my experience, in order to gain respect it’s normally better to behave in a way that earns the respect of the other partners and people that you are working with on a day to day basis.

So from where I stand a few points need to be made.

Why is the Scottish Government and its Ministers subject to freedom of information (FOI), but not COSLA?

Scottish councils are all subject to our FOI regime, but not the leadership of COSLA which is, of course, wholly funded by public money.

I can easily find out what the leader of Glasgow City Council is paid by way of a salary and expenses, yet this information is withheld when it comes to the President of COSLA.

Why, where is the ‘respect’ in that agenda?

And although COSLA is not yet legally required to provide FOI information in the same way as the Scottish Government and Scotland’s 32 local councils, why doesn’t COSLA just show some leadership and do so on a voluntary basis?

Also it has to be said that COSLA has lost just about everyone’s ‘respect’ when it comes to equal pay.

Because COSLA negotiated the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement with the trade unions on behalf of the 32 Scottish council employers.

But then nothing happened for years – until Action 4 Equality Scotland came along and forced the council employers to ‘respect’ the equal pay claims of thousands of low paid workers.

So forgive me if I take this ‘respect’ agenda with a big pinch of salt.

COSLA and many of its member councils have a lot to answer for in terms of their behaviour – over the past ten years or so.

Things may have been changing of late, but in my opinion that has far more to do with a fairer voting system which has broken the old Labour party’s stranglehold on power – both in Scotland’s councils and in the Scottish Parliament.