This year's SOLACE conference takes place at a pivotal moment in Scotland. Held immediately following the elections in May, all of Scotland's 32 councils will just have formed new administrations. Both the Scottish Government and local authorities are facing the prospect of a relatively stable electoral period up until a referendum on independence and/or greater devolution for Scotland, scheduled for autumn 2014.
Scottish ministers and council leaders are committed to working together to promote economic growth and to improve the quality of life for communities and citizens. This year's conference will examine the important and often innovative role that councils are playing in building a better Scotland - and what more they can and should do.
The conference will be framed around five strategic sessions examining different aspects of a successful Scotland - the economy, community infrastructure, community safety, improved health & wellbeing, and supporting children & young people. For each session, a keynote speaker will outline the challenges and opportunities related to the theme, and pose some questions for councils to consider; a chief executive will then play the role of respondent, summarising from their own experience how these issues are being addressed currently, and what new approaches might be adopted going forward. There will also be an opportunity for questions from the floor.
Following the five sessions, the Minister for Local Government has agreed to provide a keynote address and then take part in a political party panel Q&A session. It is hoped that all of the main political parties in the Scottish Parliament will field their local government portfolio lead for this.
The remainder of the conference will follow the successful pattern established in recent years, with a civic reception hosted by Renfrewshire Council, a dinner on the 31st May and some post dinner entertainment. Discussions will take place with SOLACE Scotland's key partners and sponsors to ensure appropriate participation and profile during the event.