Local government in Scotland

Brodies LLP

With a superb reputation for local government work, Brodies LLP's multidisciplinary team provides local authorities with full-service support and is a regular fixture on large infrastructure, energy and construction projects, providing advice on planning, procurement and property matters, among other issues. During the pandemic, the team has provided local authorities with on-going Covid-19 response guidance, demonstrating the group's close relationship with the public sector, which also leads to regular instructions on employment law, governance and various contentious issues. The last-mentioned segment received a further boost with the partner promotion of solicitor-advocate Niall McLean in May 2020, who is also noted for his strength in governance, equality, planning and social care. He is a key member of the team led by public law specialist Jackie McGuire.

Practice head(s):

Jackie McGuire

Other key lawyers:

Roger Cotton; Lynne Marr; Christine O’Neill QC; Niall McLean; Sarah-Jane McArthur; Jane McMonagle

Testimonials

‘Brodies provides a very proactive service focused on the needs of the client. They are focused on positive outcomes and build positive relationships which foster great communication. They are very responsive and flexible in dynamic situations and on top of the law that applies in each situation.’

‘The individuals we work with build positive relationships with us which greatly enhances open communication. They are proactive in working with us to identify issues and pragmatic solutions. Niall McLean and Jackie McGuire are exceptional bringing focused legal solutions in circumstances that may be dynamic and sensitive.’

‘We have great confidence in Brodies’ legal expertise. They understand the context within which local authorities work, and have been excellent in accommodating various demands made on their time. The people we have dealt with give us confidence that we are getting a first class legal service.’

‘We’ve valued Jane McMonagle’s in-depth knowledge and ability, and her awareness of the particular pressures facing local authority clients.’

‘Brodies has the pre-eminent local government team in Scotland, with great strength in depth.’

Jackie McGuire has considerable experience in all matters local government.

‘Brodies benefits from a large range of specialists solicitors who are well-place to be able to advise local councils on variety of matters. The all-round strength of the solicitors in the firm make it an excellent choice for any local authority.’

‘Niall McLean has an excellent knowledge of contentious planning and property matters in particular. As a solicitor advocate he regularly appears as junior counsel in the Court of Session. Christine O’Neill QC has very extensive experience and knowledge of all public law matters.’

Key clients

West Lothian Council

Stirling Council

Falkirk Council

Perth & Kinross Council

Glasgow City Council

Midlothian Council

Fife Council

Clyde Gateway Developments Limited

Edinburgh City Council

Aberdeen Council

Work highlights

  • Provided advice to Stirling Council on a wide range of matters including childcare, housing, roads, licensing and governance issues. The team also provided support and guidance in relation to the council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Provided advice and support to numerous Scottish councils in response to the Scottish Government’s guidance on maintaining continuity of supply and supporting businesses throughout the Covid–19 pandemic.
  • Advised Argyll and Bute Council on a wide range of diverse matters including its governance response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in relation to its planning, roads, waste collection, employment and social care functions.

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern has a strong profile advising local authorities on education and energy projects, and most notably on associated corporate, procurement, property and commercial matters, while also handling disputes. Much of its contentious work is projects and employment-related but also includes care placement and child protection actions. Audrey Cameron heads the team and has a focus on governance, procurement, state aid and regeneration projects.

Practice head(s):

Audrey Cameron

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Stephen; Pat Loftus

Testimonials

‘They combine agility, subject matter expertise and a formidable work ethic to provide a truly client-focussed service.’

‘Audrey Cameron draws on her experience in the public sector to truly understand clients’ needs – and offers very commercial advice.

‘Whatever our difficulty, AS has always been able to give sound, skilled and practical advice, assistance and representation. They collaborate well with our in-house legal teams but are equally happy dealing directly with our individual services. Their billing arrangement has worked well for us.’

‘Approachability, availability, pragmatism and understanding as well as sound legal advice and high quality representation. ’

Key clients

Fife Council

Midlothian Council

City of Edinburgh Council

Live Borders

Jobs and Business Glasgow

Clyde Gateway

Woking Borough Council

Glasgow City Council

North Lanarkshire Council

Work highlights

  • Acting in a competition action for 22 local authorities in a group litigation in the Court of Session arising from the pan-European Truck Cartel.
  • Since June 2018 a cross-firm team has been advising Shetland Islands Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands on the merger of Shetland College and NAFC Marine Centre.
  • Advising Fife Council on planning, education, public procurement and rating issues pertaining to a new campus project, incorporating two high schools and Fife College.

Burness Paull LLP

At Burness Paull LLP, recent months have seen a number of internal changes: following the retirement of Stephen Phillips in August 2020, public procurement specialist Graeme Palmer took over the practice, which received a significant boost with the arrivals of public law and regulatory specialist Fiona Killen from Anderson Strathern in October 2020 and Hazel Moffat from DLA Piper in July 2020, Moffat has particular strength in the contentious space, handling judicial reviews, public inquiries and contentious procurement matters. This set-up makes the team an attractive partner for local authorities, public agencies and arm's-length external organisations requiring assistance in procurement exercises, project investments, governance structures and contractual arrangements alongside property and corporate matters. Much of its contentious work is construction-related.

Practice head(s):

Graeme Palmer

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Killen; Hazel Moffat; Steven McKinlay

Testimonials

The team gets a good review from my HR colleagues.

Key clients

Glasgow City Council

Sustrans

Fife Cultural Trust

Perth & Kinross Council

Renfrewshire Council

Falkirk Council

South Lanarkshire Council

East Renfrewshire Council

North Ayrshire Council

Guild Homes Tayside Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised all five of the Borderlands Growth Deal local authorities on putting in place an appropriate governance structure for the growth deal.
  • Acted for Sustrans in developing the template agreement for the Spaces for People/Spaces for Everyone funding. The funding was to be awarded to Scottish local authorities to enable them to respond to Covid-19 by installing temporary cycle paths, increasing the width of walkways to allow greater active travel and social distancing during the pandemic.
  • Working with Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council in developing the toolkit for carrying out one of the first innovation partnership procurements in Scotland.

CMS

Advising public authorities on issues arising from hub initiatives, city region deals and other large regeneration and infrastructure projects constitutes a key portion of CMS' local government work along with associated disputes and judicial reviews. Its projects-related work typically involves contractual, planning, procurement, transactional and property matters and has recently included various Covid-19 response issues, most notably in the transport and infrastructure sectors. Infrastructure projects expert Ailsa Ritchie and planning specialist Mark McMurray are the key contacts.

Practice head(s):

Ailsa Ritchie; Mark McMurray

Other key lawyers:

Eleanor Lane; Shona Frame; Christine Worthington; Graeme Young; Amy Norton

Testimonials

‘Although CMS now form part of a much larger international firm, the partners in the Glasgow office have not lost sight of the needs of their local market. They continue to offer a comprehensive full-service suite to their clients and remain approachable and extremely down to earth, offering clear and concise practical legal advice in support of our strategic objectives. Their support is much appreciated.’

‘Mark McMurray and Ailsa Ritchie are vastly experienced in their fields and provide advice which is both practical and comprehensive.’

‘When instructing major project support externally, we need to have confidence not only in the external advisers experience but also that they are the right fit to work with council officers and elected members. Both Mark McMurray and Ailsa Ritchie have these qualities in abundance.’

Key clients

Stirling Council

City of Edinburgh Council

The Moray Council

Renfrewshire Council

Aberdeenshire Council

Argyll & Bute Council

East Renfrewshire Council

Orkney Islands Council

Highland Council

North Lanarkshire Council

Work highlights

  • Advising Renfrewshire Council on major infrastructure projects as part of the Glasgow City Region Deal.
  • Advising the City of Edinburgh Council on its traffic orders to facilitate social distancing in response to the pandemic.
  • Supporting Orkney Islands Council on its response to the proposed designation of protected sites for wild birds in Orkney’s waters.

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP's local government offering is split into a contentious arm, led by Jennifer Jack, and a transactional segment led by James McMorrow. In the former, local authorities and arm's-length external organisations routinely retain the group to assist with commercial actions, public procurement disputes and judicial reviews, while typical work in the non-contentious sphere includes corporate, commercial and funding matters alongside procurement and state aid advice on various projects.

Practice head(s):

James McMorrow; Jennifer Jack

Other key lawyers:

Tom Thomas; Euan Pirie; Jill Fryer

Testimonials

‘Jennifer Jack is extremely capable and exceptionally good at dealing with complexity, whether legal or practical. She really understands client needs. A highly talented lawyer.’

‘Jennifer Jack is a hugely experienced and a connected figure in this field. She is a real market leader in public sector, including litigating for public authorities.’

‘Jennifer Jack is highly recommended in this field. She is very prominent in the public sector advice and litigation area, and always inspires confidence. She understands the client dynamic within public sector work, and her insight is always valued.’

‘An approachable firm with a good awareness of wider issues facing local government, who gives clear and practical advice.’

‘James McMorrow is welcoming and accessible, who demonstrates a good knowledge of the range of legal areas within the public sector.’

‘The team has a strong public sector focus and demonstrates excellent knowledge and expertise in areas such as procurement and commercial contract negotiation and drafting.’

‘James McMorrow is highly skilled and approachable. He is able to accommodate the demands made on his time in dealing with a high-profile, high-value public sector project.’

Key clients

Glasgow City Council

City of Edinburgh Council

North Ayrshire Council

Inverclyde Council

Highland Council

Shetland Islands Council

Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)

North Lanarkshire Council

East Renfrewshire Council

Dumfries & Galloway Council

Work highlights

  • Advising Glasgow City Council on a wide range of projects, including on the £648m project for the sale, purchase and leaseback (and associated debt funding) of several real estate assets transferring from GCC to CPGI, and related corporate vehicles.
  • Advising Inverclyde Council in relation to its investment alongside Peel Ports Clydeport to extend current facilities at Greenock under the £19m Ocean Terminal City Deal Project.
  • Defending City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) in a commercial action raised against it by a religious group/church with strong conservative Christian beliefs seeking damages for breach of contract, but also significant levels of compensation in terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser has been particularly active assisting local authorities with planning permission and objection proceedings - including mediation and judicial reviews - pertaining to residential, commercial and leisure developments, while other regular contentious work, which constitutes a key element of the practice, includes Lands Tribunal proceedings and commercial actions alongside discrimination, equality and welfare-related proceedings. Planning expert Rory Alexander heads up the team and has particular expertise in housing and regeneration projects.

Practice head(s):

Rory Alexander

Other key lawyers:

Lynda Towers

Testimonials

‘Morton Fraser has an excellent all-round team providing legal support to many local authorities, in particular in relation to contentious planning and property matters.’

‘Broad range of experience acting for local authorities and has excellent legal knowledge in relation to the issues that arise, and is very efficient and a delight to work with.’

Key clients

The City of Edinburgh Council

Glasgow City Council

Aberdeen City Council

Orkney Islands Council

East Lothian Council

Highland Council

West Lothian Council

Midlothian Council

Stirling Council

Moray Council

Work highlights

  • Advising City of Edinburgh Council on a major residential-led development at East of Millburn Tower, Edinburgh, the so-called Garden District. Advice has covered planning, compulsory purchase, property, governance and local government law.
  • Instructed by Unison in relation to equal pay claims brought by its members against Glasgow City Council and associated employers; the team raised and managed in excess of 6,000 employment tribunal claims and represented the client along with agents for the other claimant groups in long-running negotiations with Glasgow City Council.
  • Continues to advise Orkney Islands Council on its local authority powers to establish an entity to take forward several community windfarm developments.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Advising councils and arm's-length organisations on DBFM and DBDA projects and other developments constitutes the key strength of Shepherd and Wedderburn's practice; this leads to regular instructions on procurement exercises, construction and property matters alongside associated disputes but the group also handles commercial and governance issues. Employment law expert Neil Maclean heads up the team and is noted for his education sector expertise.

Practice head(s):

Neil Maclean

Other key lawyers:

Stephen Colliston; Euan McLeod; Ewan MacLeod; Iain Drummond; George McKinlay

Key clients

West Lothian Council

Fife Council

City of Edinburgh Council

East Ayrshire Council

South Ayrshire Council

Dunedin Canmore Housing Association (part of Wheatley Housing Group)

Acciona Industial SA

Work highlights

  • Advised West Lothian Council in relation to a major hub DBDA project to deliver a three-school primary and secondary school campus.
  • Acted for the City of Edinburgh Council in relation to a £90m consultancy framework agreement for use by the council and more than 100 partner organisations.
  • Advised Acciona Industrial S.A. and its consortium of Spanish, Dutch and Belgian companies in their successful bid for a long-term contract to design, build and operate an energy from waste plant in Aberdeen.

MacRoberts LLP

MacRoberts LLP is routinely called upon by government departments and local councils to provide assistance with commercial, contractual and employment law matters alongside procurement projects, while public services providers receive support with administrative law queries and contractual arrangements with councils. Team head Duncan Osler is the key contact for public procurement.

Practice head(s):

Duncan Osler

Other key lawyers:

Robin Fallas

Testimonials

‘Extremely approachable as a firm. Highly specialized knowledge in information governance and data protection law including strong awareness of IT aspects.’

‘Individual solicitors and partners within the firm are highly accessible. Able to very quickly get to the root of well established projects and turn round advice very quickly. Polite and courteous in all dealings.’

‘The large team is well known for its local government work and has a track record in this field.’

‘Public sector specialist Robin Fallas was heavily involved in providing us in relation to local government advice.

Key clients

Food Standards Scotland

Scottish Borders Council

North Ayrshire Council

Scottish Government (CivTech)

Buth Bharraidh

Aberdeenshire Bus and Coach Operator Association

East Lothian Advice Consortium

Coalition of Care Providers Scotland

Robertson Property Limited

Clydeside Regeneration Limited

Work highlights

  • Provided procurement advice to the Scottish Borders Council.
  • Continued to assist North Ayrshire Council with equal pay claims.
  • Acted for the rural social enterprise Buth Bharraidh in contentious matters with its local authority concerning both the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and general matters of public administrative law.