THE last two months of lockdown have clearly been a very difficult time for many people.

It has certainly not been helped by a prime minister whose message appears ambiguous at best and who is following a reckless approach.

With an increasing divergence between UK and Scottish government advice, the media has often overlooked the vital role played at local level to address this crisis. Big announcements, such as for supporting businesses and charities, have been made at Holyrood and Westminster, yet it is local authorities, charities and communities who have carried out this support and so much more, from food deliveries to counselling.

At a time of reduced incomes on the back of a decade of council underfunding, the virus crisis has put even more pressure on council budgets.

The recent comments from Finance Secretary Kate Forbes that local authorities would have to dip into reserves certainly did not help the situation when reserves have already been used to cope with funding shortfalls. Now greater clarity is needed on what money is coming to local authorities and when. Since 2016, Scottish Greens have worked hard to prevent the worst of the cuts and introduce new ways for councils to raise their own funds, but the fundamental system is broken. This is not just about funding, it speaks of a wider issue of the devaluing of local government.

Since lockdown, Glasgow City Council has held a weekly leader’s briefing, and an emergency form of the City Administration has met twice, using a phone conference format. By my count this has involved a total of just eight councillors, out of 85.

Covid-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to Glasgow, as to elsewhere, and decisions needed to be made to restructure business in order to prioritise frontline services. Just over a month ago I wrote about striking the right balance between decision making and maintaining robust scrutiny and I believe now is the time to restart local democracy.

This article was written on the eve of publication of proposals on how to restructure council decision making. I sincerely hope that they lay a strong emphasis on robust scrutiny and accountability, as well as community participation. We need to have the two scrutiny committees resuming their vital work, as well as planning and licencing boards.

Added to this, given the vital role played by local communities in responding to Covid-19, I believe local Area Partnerships should also meet again before summer recess. Greens have been pushing for a greater role for pedestrian and cycle spaces in improving social distancing and it’s really important that local communities are able to feed in to find the best solutions for each ward.

On top of this, of course, we need to have a meeting of full council. Full council has not met since it passed the budget in February and we should not let six months pass without it being convened.

As Scotland’s largest authority, Glasgow is often the driving force for change, yet we are significantly behind Aberdeenshire and other local authorities in bringing local democracy online. Not even the Glasgow Digital Board has been able to meet online, despite cross-party demand for this to happen.

We now have six weeks until the start of recess. With enough political will, that gives us time for all councillors to be up and running with the right equipment, and for all the necessary committees to meet at least once. While others might not recognise its value, it’s vital that we do all we can to restart local democracy.