NEXT month, voters across Scotland will have the opportunity to decide how we want our local councils to be run as we head to the polls for the 2022 local elections.

And, whilst Scots have seen no fewer than ten major polls since 2014, and could therefore be forgiven for feeling a certain amount of voter fatigue, it will still be just as important as ever that we ensure our voices are heard.

As someone who served as a councillor for some 18 years, I know as well as anybody of the absolutely vital role that local government plays in our day-to-day lives.

And, as the party of localism, it is the Scottish Conservatives who are fighting to empower local government across Scotland.

For too long, Scottish local government has seen its powers curtailed and its funding slashed.

For example, since the last local elections in 2017, nearly 400 local authority planning decisions have been overturned by the SNP Government in Edinburgh – including over half of all decisions that were appealed last year.

On top of this, the SNP Government is dealing councils another real-terms funding cut of £250million in 2022-23.

This is why my party will soon be introducing a Bill to the Scottish Parliament which would re-empower local government, by preventing ministers from continually overriding decisions taken by local councils and ensuring that councils receive at least a fixed percentage of the Scottish Government budget. This Bill alone would prevent the SNP from failing to pass on increases in their own budget.

As representatives of the party of localism, it is Scottish Conservative councillors who will be best placed to deliver on local priorities.

In this election, every Conservative candidate is standing on a manifesto to deliver the change that communities are crying out for.

This includes a commitment to keep Council Tax as low as possible, to introduce business rates-free zones to help our high streets recover from the pandemic, and to oppose the SNP's dreaded Car Park Tax in all circumstances.

Scottish Conservative councillors will also fight to ensure that their localities receive every possible penny of the UK Government's Levelling Up funding.

The funding already committed through this scheme has the potential to inject fresh investment into communities that had previously been long-forgotten by the Scottish Government, however some SNP-led councils even abjectly failed to place bids for previous rounds of this funding.

Conservative councils would also look to introduce a Local Tutoring Scheme to help pupils catch-up with lost learning from the previous two years.

This is something which is particularly needed in councils such as ours in Clackmannanshire, where the SNP Government is ruthlessly cutting over £800,000 of attainment gap funding by 2025.

Of all the polls that our voters face, it is local elections that are very much the closest level of democracy to our communities up and down the country.

It is so extremely important that we therefore grasp this opportunity to only back those candidates who are willing to stand up to the SNP's constitutional obsession, who put local priorities first, and who fight to restore the key role that local government is able to play in communities across Scotland.