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MAC call for evidence SOL research: COSLA response


  1. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is the representative voice of Local Government in Scotland.  COSLA represents the views of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, and also acts as the employers’ association for local authorities.  Total employment in Scottish Local Government was 251,000 in June 2019.
  1. This submission has been prepared by COSLA in consultation with our member councils.  We have drawn on formal written evidence we received in November 2019 and more recent follow up evidence from a total of 18 local authorities.  These are: Aberdeen City Council, Angus Council, Argyll & Bute Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dumfries & Galloway Council, East Ayrshire Council, East Lothian Council, East Renfrewshire Council, Falkirk Council, Fife Council, Glasgow City Council, Highland Council, North Ayrshire Council, Scottish Borders Council, Shetland Islands Council, South Ayrshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council and Stirling Council.  
  1. We have also drawn on wider data, e.g. the Society of Personnel and Development Scotland (SPDS) workforce planning survey (2020), Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and Care Inspectorate Staff Vacancies in Care Sector (2020), and Scottish Government and COSLA Teacher Vacancy Survey (2019). 

SPDS Workforce Planning Survey 

  1. SPDS is a public sector organisation comprising Heads of HR and other senior HR professionals across Scottish local authorities.
  1. SPDS issued the Survey Need Analysis Programme (SNAP) to workforce planning leads in the 32 Scottish local authorities in December 2019.  The deadline for completion was 28 February 2020. Of the 32 local authorities, a total of 31 responses were received. 
  1. The table below confirm the skills shortages in Scottish local authorities:
Position  No. of Councils with Shortages  % of Total Responses
Building Standards 18 58%
Early Years 16 52%
Environmental Health Officers 22 71%
Facilities Management  5 16%
Janitors 3 10%
Mechanics 6 19%
Mental Health Officers 22 71%
Social Care 26 84%
Trades 11 36%
Trading Standards 16 52%
Teachers 18 68%
  1. There has been a number of steps / actions that have been taken to address skills shortages within local authorities.  These include:
  • Career development schemes;
  • Creative recruitment advertising sources / campaigns across digital media, recruitment days, bespoke recruitment, using Linkedin for advertising;
  • Highlighting development opportunities and career pathways in universities, local careers events and job centres;
  • ‘Grow our own’ programmes;
  • Incentive payments for teachers;
  • Increased use of career grades and traineeships, apprenticeships, interns;
  • Offering extended interview travel and subsistence to include family members;
  • Relocation payment schemes; and
  • Retaining and reskilling initiatives. 

Health and Social Care

  1. All of the responses we received from councils emphasised their concerns about shortages in the social care sector and also that the average wage in the independent social care sector is the current living wage.  
  1. Statistics published by the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in January 2020 show that vacancy levels across care services are significant and increasing.  A total of 38% of care services reported having vacancies in the SSSC/Care Inspectorate staff vacancy report.  Housing support services; care at home services; care homes for older people; and care homes for adults had a significant proportion of services reporting vacancies. Care homes for adults, care homes for older people, housing support services, care at home services, nurse agencies and residential special schools all had a proportion of services with vacancies significantly above the national average for all care services.
  1. Our member authorities highlighted the challenges of an ageing population, the high demand for care workers and their struggles to recruit to these posts.  For example, East Renfrewshire engage agency workers to fill gaps and engage overseas workers (EU and non-EU).
  1. Highland has a population aging faster than the Scottish and UK averages, meaning an increasing demand for health and social care.  Projections from Skills Development Scotland anticipate the need for 3,400 Health Professionals and 3,800 new recruits in the Caring Personal Service Occupations between 2018 and 2028 if replacement demands and expansion demands are to be met.  
  1. There is a particular issue with jobs that have high social value but not a high wage value.  In Glasgow, ‘social care factor staff’ are critical to the smooth running of the city’s health services.  Currently in Glasgow 32% of these staff are EU nationals and, given the critical infrastructure support they provide, it is imperative that local authorities can continue to employ EU nationals.  If they cannot, it will have a critically detrimental impact on services’ capacity to continue to provide this support in the future, given the reliance on employing EU nationals.  Full consideration and recognition therefore needs to be given to the high social value roles which are carried out and contribute to meeting our health and social needs.
  1. Argyll & Bute report high level of vacancies in health and social care, in acute and community settings.  This includes nursing & midwifery (7%) and community mental health nursing (14%).  Recruitment challenges were reported in the following roles: consultant psychiatrists; GPs; Allied Health Professionals; Health Visitors; Occupational Therapists; Pharmacists; Radiographers; and Social Workers.  
  1. Na h-Eileanan Siar experiences ongoing difficulty in filling posts in the Social Care Sector and a number of these posts are currently filled by EU nationals.  Healthcare in general (for example, many of NHS Western Isles Consultants are EEA nationals) employ a significant number of EU nationals and thresholds should be tailored accordingly so as not to impact on the ability of the Eilean Siar region to retain workers in favour of higher income areas in Scotland.  
  1. Na h-Eileanan Siar also identify more general skills challenges due to demographic change, i.e. skills challenges exacerbated by a deficit of talent, created due to the growth of people reaching retirement age and a decline in those of working age.  It is forecast that the total population in Na h-Eileanan Siar will reduce by 14% or 3,800 people between 2016 and 2041.  This is compared to a 5% increase in Scotland and 11% increase in the UK as a whole over the same period.  Similarly, the working age population (16-64) is forecast to reduce by 25% or 4,100 people, compared with a 4% decrease in Scotland and an 8% increase in the UK as a whole.  Pressures on public finances and services will also increase due to a growing dependency ratio.
  1. Aberdeen (49% of services), Edinburgh (49% of services) and East Ayrshire (48% of services) report the highest proportion of services with vacancies of all local authority areas.  These local authority areas have a significantly higher proportion of services with vacancies than the national average for all care services.

Early Learning and Childcare

  1. The majority of our member councils stated their concern about the potential impact of restrictive immigration rules on the early learning and childcare workforce.  Scottish Government has committed to almost double the entitlement to free Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).  Scottish local authorities were legally obliged to deliver 1,140 hours of funded childcare for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds by August 2020.  Estimated figures on the increase in the workforce that will be required range from 8,000 to 20,000.  
  1. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this commitment has been temporarily postponed.  However, it will be reintroduced in the future and it is anticipated that it will create further pressures in terms of seeking early years practitioners to fill these roles.
  1. East Lothian is one of the councils that has raised particular concerns that employers will be dependent on the current UK population to fill these roles.  As a semi-rural council area, the increase in early education roles as a result of 1,140 hours could be challenging to manage, as they are potentially more reliant upon the residents of East Lothian to fill these roles (given salary and travel).  The increased number of new build homes across East Lothian may improve/increase the pool of potential employees, but this does not detract from the fact that they would potentially be competing against neighbouring councils for these workers.
  1. East Renfrewshire flagged the roles of Early Years Officers within school nurseries and Pupil Support Assistants who support pupils with additional support needs.  There are EU nationals fulfilling both roles at present and it is imperative that immigration rules allow them to continue to fill vacancies in this sector.  East Renfrewshire Council has also highlighted the need to recruit additional Early Year Officers following the Scottish Government decision to increase the early years provision.
  1. Argyll & Bute Council’s workforce plan (2018-2022) also identifies the increase in early learning and childcare.  They forecast the need for 253 FTE posts across all early learning and childcare delivery roles by 2022 and an expansion of 18 FTE in central management, support and co-ordination.  The Early Years Service in the council is currently working with the Talent Management Team, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and secondary schools across the Council to deliver a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services Children and Young People (SSCYP). 


  1. The Teacher Vacancy Survey, which is jointly undertaken by COSLA and the Scottish Government, takes a snapshot of the advertised vacancies in each year.  The September 2019 survey highlights that although vacancies in teaching have lowered since previous years, we are still facing significant vacancies in primary (88 vacancies) and secondary teachers (294 vacancies).  We have vacancies in permanent full time primary Headteachers (36) and Depute Headteachers (18).  In terms of secondary, we have vacancies in Principle Teachers (69) and highest vacancy rates in Maths, Technical Studies, English, Additional Support Needs, Physical Education, Computing, Home Economics, and Modern Languages.
  1. Local authorities are adopting a range of approaches to address teacher shortages.  This includes golden hellos, enhanced relocation packages, permanent contracts, and subsidised accommodation.  In addition, a number of local authorities are actively trying to recruit from overseas. 
  1. Aberdeen City Council has highlighted the importance of ensuring that they can still sponsor EEA nationals as probationary teachers for one year while they gain their full teaching registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.  If not, this means that Aberdeen City Council could potentially face reduced teacher numbers, especially around subject areas which have a higher proportion of non-UK students.  This would also restrict their pipeline of future teachers.  Furthermore, work has been undertaken in partnership with the University of Aberdeen to work on incentivising people to come to Aberdeen to study to become a secondary teacher and to remain in the area and work for Aberdeen City Council afterwards as this has, historically, been an issue.  Adding further barriers to this attraction and retention approach would be an issue for the Council. 
  1. Argyll & Bute Council’s workforce plan (2018 -2022) reports that they have 300 teaching staff in the older age bracket, which indicates that they are likely to leave the service of the local authority through retirement within the period of the plan.  This will mean they face a significant challenge to replace Head Teachers, Depute Heads and Principal Teachers in their primary and secondary schools.  Argyll & Bute also highlight an increased need in Early Learning and Childcare.

Other occupations

  1. The SPDS Workforce Planning Survey asked local authorities if there were any other skills shortages in their authority.  The positions that were detailed in the ‘other’ category are as follows: Accountants, Architects, Business Analysts, Category Managers, Catering & Cleaning (including Supervisors and Managers), Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Officers, Children Social Workers, Data Analysts, Educational Psychologists, Engineers, Geotechnical, IT/ICT (Cyber Security Specialists), Job Evaluation, LGV/HGV Drivers, Occupational Therapists, Payroll, Pest/Dog Control Wardens, Planners and Project Managers. 
  1. In their response to COSLA’s request for evidence, Glasgow City Council highlighted that a significant number of its employees are EU nationals, all of whom assist to deliver the vital services that the council provides for its communities and citizens.  They raised concerns that immigration restriction would impinge on Glasgow’s ability to successfully recruit for roles such as catering and cleaning, as well as child and social care.  These are roles which already face recruitment challenges, and these are likely to be exacerbated if restrictions are expanding to EEA nationals.
  1. East Renfrewshire Council raised issues with IT roles and some administrative roles.  East Renfrewshire also currently engage overseas workers in manual roles, including cleaners, which will not meet the qualification or salary requirements.
  1. South Lanarkshire Council highlighted potential issues with lower/mid graded posts, e.g. Probationer Teachers, Cleaning and Catering posts, School Support Assistants and Health and Social Care posts.
  1. Angus Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council, as rural council areas, rely on agricultural workers, many of whom are EEA Nationals.
  1. Na h-Eileanan Siar envisage that the long-term impact of the cessation of economic EU migration to their islands will have an impact on the fishing, shellfish, retail, construction, tourism and healthcare/social care sectors (for example, many of NHS Western Isles Consultants are EEA nationals).  
  1. Overall, remote and rural communities in Scotland depend on workers from the EU in a range of sectors with tourism providing more than 200,000 jobs in total, 21,000 of which are held by EU nationals.  Around 8,000 people in Scotland employed in the food and drink sector, particularly fish and meat processing, are EU nationals.  There are also up to 15,000 EU seasonal migrant workers in Scotland in soft fruit and vegetable sectors, and 3% of health and social care workers in Scotland are EU nationals.
  1. Aberdeen City Council suggested that, in future, they may need to explore sponsoring employees in other areas, particularly in areas of demand or growth.  This could include a need to sponsor EEA nationals.  They highlighted the issue of lower-paid roles which they struggle to recruit to internally, particularly roles in trades, waste, roads, care, facilities and early years.


  1. In conclusion, we request that the following occupation shortages should be added to either the UK or Scotland Shortage Occupation List:
Job Title  Closest ONS occ. code Sector most affected
Pre-school Practitioners 6121 Education 
Primary Teachers 2315 Education 
Primary Depute Teachers 2315 Education 
Primary Head Teacher 2317 Education
Secondary Teachers  2314 Education
Secondary Principal Teachers  2317 Education 
Care Workers and Home Carers 6145 Care Sector 
Housing Support  3234 Care Sector 

For further information regarding this response please contact: 

Lorraine Cook

Policy Manager 

COSLA Migration, Population and Diversity Team 

0131 474 9243 

June 2020