Local Governance Review: analysis of responses to Democracy Matters

An analysis of the responses received during the Democracy Matters engagement phase of the Local Governance Review.

Section 1: Introduction

The Local Governance Review was jointly launched in December 2017 by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to consider how powers, responsibilities and resources are shared across national and local spheres of government, and with communities.

There are two strands to the Review:

(1) community level decision-making; and
(2) public service governance.

Strand one focuses on communities and has been called ‘Democracy Matters’ (abbreviated subsequently in this report as DM). This report describes the analysis of responses to the DM engagement process, described below.

Strand two focuses on all public sector bodies, which were invited to offer proposals for improved governance arrangements at their level of place, based on an acceptance of increased variation in decision-making arrangements across Scotland. A report providing an analysis of the responses received to strand 2 has also been produced.

The Democracy Matters engagement

DM was deliberately designed to take a bottom-up approach to engaging people and communities. Scottish Government and COSLA worked in partnership with a group drawn from the community sector, equalities groups, the public and private sector to design the engagement process collaboratively. This group was called the ‘Enabling Group’ (Annex A for list of group members).

The Enabling Group developed a short set of five open questions designed to guide DM discussions:

1. Tell us about your experiences of getting involved in decision-making processes that affect your local community or community of interest?

2. Would you like your local community or community of interest to have more control over some decisions? If yes, what sorts of issues would those decisions cover?

3. When thinking about decision-making, ‘local’ could mean a large town, a village, or a neighbourhood. What does ‘local’ mean to you and your community?

4. Are there existing forms of decision-making which could play a part in exercising new local powers? Are there new forms of local decision-making that could work well? What kinds of changes might be needed for this to work in practice?

5. Do you have any other comments, ideas or questions? Is there more you want to know?

A range of materials were produced by the Enabling Group to support people to host and organise discussions in their community in whatever way suited them best. They were designed to be as inclusive as possible. The materials included:

  • A short animated film explaining the aims of DM
  • A guide to the DM questions, which was also produced in an Easy Read version
  • Information about how decisions about public services are taken in Scotland
  • Guides to organising a DM event and to facilitating a good discussion. These guides made broad suggestions about things to consider in planning and running events; but did not set out a fixed format.

All of this material was made available on dedicated Local Governance Review webpages.

People were able to get involved in DM in a range of ways:

  • Community conversations: Conversations were held in communities of geography or interest. In most cases, communities organised an event where people came together to have a conversation about the five DM questions. Communities chose to structure conversations in a variety of ways and used a range of supporting material. A report of the conversation was then submitted – in a variety of forms.
  • Individual responses: people were able to submit their individual views by email or post. There was no required format for responses. Individuals gave their views in a variety of ways, some answered the DM questions directly and others responded more generally to the issues.
  • Organisational responses: organisations submitted a range of views on community-level decision-making. There was no required format for responses. Some of the submissions from organisations responded to the DM questions directly and others responded more generally to the issues.
  • DM postcard: a leaflet was developed to promote DM. It provided some information about the Local Governance Review and asked two of the questions. There was space to write a response to these questions and it could then be folded up into a pre-addressed ‘postcard’ format and returned by freepost. These were distributed at a range of events including the Scottish Government’s travelling Cabinet meetings, and by a range of organisations locally including councils, Community Planning Partnerships, Third Sector Interfaces, health, community and third sector organisations.
  • An online forum: people were able to post ideas and responses to the DM questions, and respond to other contributions, in an online dialogue.

To help support the community conversations, the Scottish Government made available a £30,000 fund for small grants to community organisations to cover expenses such as hiring a venue, providing refreshments and childcare costs. The fund was distributed by the Voluntary Action Fund which made grants for 89 community events, totalling £27,985.

In addition, the Scottish Government awarded larger grants totalling just under £20,000 to help ensure that DM was as inclusive as possible. These grants went to the following organisations who organised local events with specific marginalised groups:

  • Church of Scotland (17 events)
  • BEMIS (5 events)
  • Deaf Scotland (2 events)

DM was launched on 28 May 2018 and submissions could be made until the end of November. Submissions received after the deadline were also included.

To mark the completion of this first phase of engagement, a series of 13 regional events were organised by the Enabling Group. The events were held across Scotland in November and December 2018, in the early afternoon and early evening, in community venues in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Irvine and Oban.

Each event lasted two and a half hours and included a presentation which gave feedback on the emerging themes from provisional analysis of the initial responses received on DM. Table discussions were held, supported by a facilitator, focused on some of the aspects of community-level decision-making: specifically around local control, equalities and inclusion, and outcomes. Notes of the discussions were taken by facilitators and everyone attending was also encouraged to add their own written comments using post-it notes. This written material was included in the analysis undertaken for this report.

The analysis of responses to Democracy Matters

For each submission to DM, respondents were asked to complete a Respondent Information Form. The information from the form was systematically recorded in a spreadsheet. This included information about the method of engagement used, who the submission was from and the estimated numbers of people involved. This information was used to analyse who got involved in DM, and is described in the next section.

DM engagement was designed to give a high degree of flexibility and choice about how communities ran events and about how the discussions were then reflected in the written submissions. As a result, submissions did not follow a consistent structure or format. Taken as a whole, the submissions to DM reflect a significant and varied body of material. This means that a qualitative approach has to be used for analysing this material.

To support the qualitative analysis, the text of the submissions was uploaded into a qualitative analysis software package called NVivo. Using NVivo enabled the responses to be coded into thematic categories for analysis. A coding framework was developed from an initial analysis of responses and the responses then coded systematically using that framework. As a qualitative analysis, it seeks to describe the spread and broad pattern of responses. It is not possible, or valid, to quantify the views and experiences in submissions.

The analysis that is presented in the following sections reflects the views and experiences of individuals, communities and organisations that took part in DM, as they were reflected in the written submissions. In any public engagement exercise like DM, it is important to remember that the analysis cannot be generalised to Scotland’s population as a whole.

The structure of this report

The report is structured in the following sections which cover the DM process and each of the five questions:

1. Who got involved in Democracy Matters?

2. What are people’s experiences of local decision-making?

3. Do people want more control over decisions that affect their community?

4. How do people describe their community: what does it mean to be ‘local’?

5. What forms of decision-making could be used at the community level?

6. Other issues raised.


Email: jen.swan@gov.scot

Back to top