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 2: Who got involved in Democracy Matters?

This section provides more detail about who got involved in DM and how they participated.

There were 334 submissions on DM. They were made up of the following:

  • There were 127 submissions from community conversations that reflected the results from 158 local events. From the information provided in submissions, it is estimated that 2,967 people took part.
  • There were 161 submissions from individuals: 23 people responded by email, 117 sent in a postcard, 21 participated online.
  • There were 46 submissions from organisations. A number of the organisations held discussion events/conferences of varying size to gather broader views that informed their submission. From the information provided, it is estimated that this involved 885 people.

In addition, the 13 regional events held in November and December were attended by 226 people in total.

The table below summarises the numbers of people who got involved in DM: estimated to be 4,240 in total.

How people were involved Submissions Estimated no. of
people engaged
Community conversation 127 submissions covering 158 local events 2,967
Individual response 23 submissions 23
Postcards 117 submissions 117
Online 21 people contributed to online discussions, making 133 comments in total 21
Organisational response 46 submissions 8851
Regional events 13 events 226
Total 4,240

1. Some of the responses from organisations reflected considerable levels of engagement with their membership, for example at conferences, other organisational events, or by convening a specific Democracy Matters discussion.

DM was designed to be as inclusive as possible so that communities of place and communities of interest or identity would equally be able to take part. It is evident from the submissions received that a very diverse cross-section of communities in Scotland chose to take part, described below.

Three fifths of the 158 community conversations involved communities of interest and identity. The other two fifths of these conversations involved communities of place. Three quarters of the community conversations with communities of interest and identity reflected their experiences in a specific locality. A number of submissions highlighted the importance of recognising the existence, and different needs, of ‘communities within communities’, particularly for groups reflecting protected characteristics.

Submissions came from a very broad variety of communities of place. Events were held right across Scotland, in 29 of 32 local authority areas and representing the experiences of people living in cities, towns, neighbourhoods and villages.

Many different communities of interest or identity held community conversations and made submissions to DM. These communities can be described across four broad categories:

  • Identity: this included people who identified as a community around a shared language, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship (e.g. EU citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, Syrian New Scots), around gender identity and sexuality.
  • Lifestage: this included groups with shared experience as young people, college and university students, parents, carers, and those who were retired.
  • Experience: this included groups coming together through shared experiences of poverty, homelessness, living on benefits, living with disability, recovering from addiction, living with physical and mental health conditions.
  • Interests: this included groups with a shared interest in the environment and sustainability, culture and the arts, growing your own food.

A broad range of community groups and organisations, and some councils, supported or hosted community conversations, including local community groups and networks, community councils, community development trusts, housing associations, community interest companies, local faith organisations. This included organising conversations with some more marginal communities, who might not have otherwise participated in DM.

For example, a local Baptist church organised a number of conversations for different language groups, including Arabic, Urdu and French speakers. BEMIS worked with local community groups to organise a series of discussions around the country that involved people from thirty different ethnic groups, nationalities and faith groups. BEMIS is a national member-led umbrella organisation that supports the development of the ethnic minority third sector across Scotland. A local community interest company concerned with inclusion organised a number of community conversations including one with people who have caring responsibilities and another with members of the Polish community in Glasgow.

Most of the discussions held by communities of interest or identity reflected the experience of marginalised groups. Some groups involved people experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage or discrimination, described as intersectionality, for example, a group of Chinese women with autistic children.

A broad range of organisations put in a submission including individual community councils and local networks of community councils, community development trusts, councils, local and national third sector organisations, national community organisations and associations, local and national equalities organisations and other national organisations including Common Weal and Electoral Reform Society and the Federation of Small Businesses.

The submissions describe a very broad range of experiences and views. It is clear that different communities are starting from very different places in terms of their experiences of participating in local decision-making, and in their aspirations for greater involvement. The following sections will describe the range of experiences.

The experience of taking part in DM conversations

DM events were held in community spaces across Scotland and in one case through Twitter. Some groups used different ways to engage people and support the discussions; for example, using photographs as a way for people to express their responses to questions. Here is a picture from one of these events:

Submissions to DM illustrated and described communities engaged in discussions about how to have a greater stake and involvement in decisions that affect them. They described a strong sense of energy and enthusiasm in those discussions. For some of the people involved, taking part in discussions about the issues of DM was described as being an important and significant experience in itself. For some, it was an opportunity to join a debate about how to expand activity already happening in their community. For others, it was a new experience to consider their role as citizens and communities, and having that experience itself built their confidence and understanding. For some it encouraged them to think about how they could play a more active role and make a contribution.


Email: jen.swan@gov.scot

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