Participatory budgeting (PB) is recognised internationally as a way for local people to have a direct say in how, and where, public funds can be used to address local needs. PB originated in Porto Alegre, Brazil in the late 1980s and has since spread to over 1,500 localities around the world. It was born from a desire to reallocate public money locally and democratically to where it was needed most. When PB is adopted its use can be very important in helping individuals feel connected to each other and to their communities and can instil a sense of ownership, trust and connectivity.
The Scottish Government supports PB as a tool for community engagement which sits alongside the objectives of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and as an important resource to build on the wider development of participatory democracy in Scotland. The Act includes a new regulation-making power which will enable Ministers to require Scottish public authorities to promote and facilitate the participation of members of the public, in the decisions and activities of the authority, including in the allocation of its resources. The legislation does not refer specifically to PB but it will be one of the tools used in the allocation of resources.
Since June 2014 the Scottish Government has been raising awareness of PB and setting the conditions for it to be delivered in a meaningful and sustainable way across Scotland. This includes funding PB consultancy support for 20 local authorities: Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll & Bute, Ayrshires (North, East & South), Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Highlands, Midlothian, Moray, Orkney, Perth & Kinross, Shetlands, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian and Western Isles.
A number of PB learning resources have been developed and a new PB Scotland website has been launched www.PBScotland.scot
The Scottish Government commissioned the Democratic Society to investigate options for PB digital tools and the report Digital Tools and Scotland's Participatory Budgeting Programme was published in February 2016. In response to the report’s recommendations the SG is funding Demsoc to support local authorities in the uptake of PB digital tools to include technology and implementation support, establishing a PB Learning Group and providing learning materials and workshops.
The Scottish Government is also funding Glasgow Caledonian University to lead a two year evaluation programme to assess the impact of PB on communities, services and democracy with a particular focus on the relationship between PB and inequalities.
In January 2016 the Scottish Government provided match funding and support of £530,000 to 14 Local Authorities to help them build on and maintain their PB activity.
In February 2016 a £2 million Community Choices Fund was announced for 2016/17 to open up PB opportunities for public authorities and community anchor groups with a particular focus on deprived areas.
A Participatory Budgeting (PB) International Conference was held in Edinburgh on 20 and 21 October 2016. The conference report can be found on the PB Scotland website.
The PB Working Group provides advice and guidance to the Scottish Government and meets on a bi-monthly basis.