Coronavirus (COVID-19): Our shared role in containing the virus: Analysis of responses submitted as part of the Scottish Government's second public engagement exercise

This report outlines the themes emerging from a rapid analysis of the public engagement exercise that took place 5-11 October 2020 on the Scottish Government's approach to managing the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

1) Introduction

This report summarises the responses submitted as part of the Scottish Government’s second public engagement exercise regarding our approach to tackling Coronavirus (COVID-19): “Coronavirus (COVID-19): Our shared role in containing the virus”. The exercise used the Dialogue “platform” and was promoted on the Scottish Government’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels and was open from 12.30 on 5 October until 22.00 on 11 October 2020. All ideas and comments published on the platform are available to view at

The first exercise in May 2020[1] represented one of the means of dialogue with the public during the pandemic and was designed to meet ‘the immediate need for public engagement on the decision-making process concerning the current restrictions, [so that] we may also develop tools and habits of discourse that can be adapted to inform the longer term recovery and renewal process to come.’ Responses covered a large range of issues affecting society, given the breadth of reach of the initial “lockdown”. They provided context to Ministers and policy makers as they set out the Route map for moving out of lockdown, published on 21 May 2020. Submissions indicated support for the approach the Scottish Government proposed to take, and shaped specific provisions around households meeting and services to be re-opened.

This second exercise in October was designed to gather views from the public on the Government approach at this critical stage of the pandemic, when a period of re-opening the economy over the Summer months was followed by a need to implement some restrictions. As with our first engagement exercise, the range of sectors touched by the measures to manage the pandemic was wide, with impacts experienced by individuals across their day-to-day activity. The platform represented an opportunity for the public to raise issues of interest to them, and contribute to the information available to decision makers in government.

The digital platform involved the submission of “ideas” by registered users. The contributor had the opportunity to provide a title for their idea, and say “why the contribution is important”. Registered users could rate the idea on a five-star scale, and/or provide comments. All written contributions to the website were pre-moderated in accordance with the published moderation policy before appearing on the site[2]. The site was visible to members of the public, whether or not they registered as users.

Nine ideas were “pre-seeded” by the Scottish Government Digital Communications Team so that key themes were explored on the government’s approach, individuals’ actions, impact on key sectors, testing and use of information. Of these seeds, the ideas on ‘Getting the balance right’, ‘New learning norms’, ‘Tackling the virus: Other concerns and suggestions and ‘Individual and household action were among the most commented-on threads. A full overview of the top 20 threads by comments, number of ratings and unique page views is provided in Annex A.

Users were encouraged to join an existing discussion on an idea similar to their concerns, but were free to add their own idea. Moderators locked discussion on ideas where it was thought they were significantly duplicating something already on the site.

Engagement, in terms of ideas, comments and users, was significantly lower than the first exercise in May[3], which had been announced by the First Minister and garnered prominent media coverage. The volume of response was approximately 10 per cent of the level of contribution of the first exercise. Traffic on the site increased after social media promotions on Day 1 and Day 7, with Day 1 (Monday 5 October) being the busiest. The biggest share of visitors came via Facebook (42 per cent) with 20 per cent via Twitter and 23 per cent visiting directly. Around 20,000 people visited the site, of whom around 15,000 were in Scotland.



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