The Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland, now known by its acronym ‘SOLAR’, is a professional public sector organisation whose aim and purpose is to support the work of those professional officers employed in local authorities and associated organisations in Scotland.
In 1975 local government in Scotland was radically reorganised from the historic town and county structure to 53 District. 3 Islands and 9 Regional authorities. At that time, a group of senior officers, mainly former County or Town Clerks and their Deputes who had been appointed as Directors of Administration or Law and Administration in the new authorities, agreed that an organisation should be established to provide a forum for discussion and consideration of the issues faced in their new roles, with the aim of sharing knowledge and achieving a unified approach to the problems. It took as its title, the Society of Directors of Administration and began to use the acronym, ‘SODA’. Membership of this organisation was open to senior officers in law and admin Departments. It had three committees, Legal Services, Administrative Services and Policy. Its office bearers were appointed annually. From 1975 until 1996 the Society provided support to all local authorities and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in all legal and administrative matters.
By the late 80s, the Society’s membership restrictions had been eased to allow the involvement of a slightly wider range of senior officers and by the mid-90s SODA had grown with many of the 65 authorities having officers within its ranks. In 1996 local government in Scotland underwent a further reorganisation with the district and regional structure replaced by unitary authorities undertaking all local authority functions. The consequent reduction in the number of authorities to 32 meant that SODA numbers fell. To address this situation and also to reflect the changing face of local government, where “Directors of Administration” no longer featured, the Society underwent a rebranding exercise. It became SOLAR, but more importantly it widened its membership to encompass all professional staff working in local government Law and Admin across Scotland. In addition to lawyers and committee administrators, staff working in areas such as members support, elections, records management, freedom of information and licensing became eligible to join. Membership was on an individual basis each member paying an annual membership fee. As the years progressed, the Society’s office bearers concluded that membership would be better served if the local authority itself became a corporate member with all that authority’s Legal and Admin staff entitled to enjoy the benefits of membership rather than paying an individual membership fee.
The committee structure was adjusted to reflect the widening membership with a number of specialist Working groups being established, reflecting the key areas of public sector challenges. The old committees were amalgamated initially into a General Committee, now renamed as its Executive Committee, which deals with key policy and nationally important issues affecting all Councils and other public bodies.
All 32 Councils are represented within SOLAR along with the Scottish Government’s Legal Directorate, with whom the Society had established a close and profitable working relationship. There are a large number of Working Groups, which cover a range of specialised areas of law and administration. Details of which can be found here.