National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group minutes: April 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 April 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Martin Johnstone, Chair
  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance
  • David Allan, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • David Kidd,  Homeless Network Scotland
  • David Reilly, Poverty Alliance
  • Fiona Garven, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Gavin Crosby, Young Scot 
  • Jillian Matthew, Audit Scotland
  • Katey Tabner, COSLA
  • Kathleen Glazik, Scottish Government
  • Michael Wood, Education Scotland 
  • Neil Ritch, National Lottery, Scotland
  • Robert Emmott, Dundee City Council/Local Government Directors of Finance group
  • Sarah Robertson, YouthLink Scotland
  • Stuart Matheson, Scottish Government
  • Tricia Ma, Scottish Government (Secretariat)


  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance
  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • Ellie Craig, member of Youth Scottish Parliament
  • Jillian Matthews, Audit Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and overview

Martin welcomed members back to the third meeting of the refreshed Group. Following the establishment of the ‘Framework for the Future of PB in Scotland’ (i.e. ‘National PB Framework), the meeting’s primary focus was to discuss how the Group can take a phased approach to its implementation. Martin expressed gratitude for the great work to date in shaping the National PB Framework, and emphasised how the finer details are now needed to explore how these priorities can be met.

Martin gave a warm welcome to the Group’s newest member, Sarah Robertson, who provided a brief introduction. Sarah is the Operations Manager at YouthLink Scotland, recently working as the key coordinator and lead for the upcoming PB and Grant Making online course. This is due to launch on the 18 May 2022, with the official event taking place in Dunfermline, Fife.

Minutes of last meeting

The minute of the meeting held on 20 January 2022 was agreed.

Introduction to the Strategic Delivery Plan

Martin provided a brief overview of the draft ‘Strategic Delivery Plan’, which outlines a series of suggested activities that could help deliver the Framework’s priorities. This was based on identifying where the Group could best put their energy year-on-year, to help mobilise the Framework over the next five years.

The draft plan stemmed from Martin’s role in supporting the Group with something more tangible to work from as we progress forward. At that particular juncture, Martin invited SCDC, COSLA, SG’s Community Empowerment Team and Jo Kennedy, to provide the initial brainstorming support and facilitate, respectively. 

Martin clarified that the plan was a draft, and that the expectation is for the Group to adapt and add to the plan, in terms of how they envision the Framework’s priorities should be implemented. The plan will continue to adapt to challenges and opportunities, whilst remaining focused on the implementation of the agreed priorities.

Following the brief introduction, Martin invited the Group to reflect and comment on the plan, discussing each of the Framework’s five themes.

Group discussion - Strategic Delivery Plan

Culture shift, leadership and long term thinking

Group members emphasised we must not work in a vacuum and rather work to encourage public sector organisations across the board. Although there are good milestones featured across the Strategic Delivery Plan, there was strong consensus that we need to understand explicitly what ‘successful PB’ looks like, in order to help measure and evaluate its impact. The notion of measuring and evaluating PB will be a big and important ambition that lies behind the Framework.

There are opportunities to measure the impact of PB against the National Performance Framework (NPF). However, in addition to ‘indicators’, there needs to be more explicit work to putting ‘measures’ in place.

Cross-cutting priorities

There was limited discussion at this particular juncture, as the second half of the meeting has a primary focus on the Green PB Fund and the recent work of the Cross-Cutting Priorities Sub-Group.

Health and wellbeing

The Group expressed the risk of working in silos and expressed a partnership approach, in which public sector partners should be encouraged in addition to local government. For example, Katey emphasised there is scope for PB within Community Planning Partnerships, Health and Social Care Boards, and Integrated Joint Boards (IJBs).  PB will not be sustainable unless there is strategic commitment across all public sector partners. There needs to be clearer understanding of the benefits of PB as a tool to inform local budget decision making processes.

This is not an instant and visible achievement, but serves as a reminder over the years. Tackling child poverty is high on the agenda, and there is opportunity for PB as an innovative mechanism to make best use of investments and tackle direct needs expressed by young people. PB also aligns with the human rights approach to the Child Poverty Plan.

Improving Health and Wellbeing should not simply take a clinical approach, but also focus on early-prevention approaches e.g. using PB to drive the work of the Promise Scotland. There is also scope to integrate PB as part of the implementation of the National Care Service – in which services can be co-designed through the means of PB. 


Michael highlighted the abundance of PB activity across schools, where PB continues to be an opportunity to support local democracy in public council meetings and other parent teacher forums. Although PB features in the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) Operational Guidance, there may be risk of individual and inconsistent interpretations by head teachers. Robert highlighted how there needs to be a consistent understanding of PB across all schools, whereby PB is not just about budgeting but also a means for improving local democracy. 

Michael suggested that rather than embedding PB in the curriculum (which could be deemed tokenistic), there should be emphasis on clarifying the ‘PB’ term with young people. Gavin highlighted how PB processes are taking place, but it has not yet been explicitly identified as ‘PB’ to young people.


Robert expressed that the Group should be mindful of the overlap across the priority areas. For instance, issues of fuel poverty interlink with priority 7 of finding the best role for PB in a cross-cutting issue of climate justice.

Strategic Delivery Plan

The Group were happy with the foundation of the Strategic Delivery Plan. Martin concluded the discussion around the plan, highlighting how the Group must continue to adapt the plan, whilst being mindful of the complexities. In order to achieve this, we need to underpin what ‘real PB success’ looks like, as well as the smaller details to understand the extent to which PB is improving in Scotland.

Overall, the Group were happy with the progress of the PB Framework and supplementary plan. We must remember that PB is a small but important part of widening participatory democracy, and we must continue to make implicit links with other pieces of work, such as the Local Governance Review and Open Government Action Plan.

Exploring a Green PB Fund

On behalf of Oliver Escobar as Convener of the Cross-Cutting Priorities Sub-Group, David Reilly offered to provide an update on the work of the Sub-Group. The Sub-Group met online on the 28 March 2022 to explore the possibility of a Green PB Fund, which was in response to an outstanding action from the previous Strategic Group meeting.

David provided context in which those experiencing higher levels of poverty, often experience the lowest levels of participation. This was highlighted at COP26, where community empowerment continues to be a driving force towards a just transition to net zero. The Sub-Group captured a number of reasons to justify a request for a Green PB Fund. Such rationale primarily stemmed from recommendations in the Scottish Climate Assembly, Just Transition Commission Report, and the Programme for Government 21/22. David also discussed how the Group learned from the Community Choices Fund, unpicking: the type of audience; architecture of the fund; and other dimensions to include in a potential proposal.

Martin opened discussion to the wider Group for feedback. The Group was supportive and recognised supplementary funding would be required towards the administrative cost of running PB processes. However, there was consensus that we should be cautious towards establishing a brand new fund – as there are other existing funding streams related to community participation in green initiatives. It may also distort the perception of ‘PB’ as being a separate fund, rather than mainstreaming PB into existing funds.

A series of suggested actions were raised, to help determine the next steps for this workstream for the Cross-Cutting Priorities Sub-Group:

  • capture lessons learnt from the Dundee City Council as they progress through their new Green PB initiative
  • take the lessons from the Green PB session, hosted by SCDC, on the challenges and opportunities of Green PB
  • encourage regional networks to adopt PB processes – such as integrating green PB support to climate action hubs
  • research into the evaluation process of successful projects – i.e. how to measure the achievements, such as using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local community level
  • explore how to encourage communities to target and divert resources in a PB way

Overall, an agreement was made across the wider Group for Martin, with the support of the Cross-Cutting Priorities Sub-Group, to make a formal recommendation to Ministers on embedding the Green PB model into existing SG funding streams. Within this proposal, there will be recognition that there is little investment of PB processes at present. Nonetheless, the Group wish to encourage a participatory model that ensures those experiencing the greater impacts of climate change, but having least influence, are able to be involved in greater decision making processes through PB. Timescales were discussed, with the expectation of presenting a report by August 2022.

Update on national PB conference planning

David Allan provided a brief update on the National PB Conference 2022, which will primarily focus on the ‘Framework for the Future of PB in Scotland’ and how PB can be further embedded as a mechanism to improve local democracy. The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth will be expected to kick-off the event, followed by sessions ran by PB practitioners. The key will be to discuss the most effective ways to implement the PB Framework and how to integrate PB into their everyday work. 

There are two potential ‘save the dates’, Tuesday 13 September 2022 and Wednesday 21 September 2022. SCDC will implement a hybrid model to the conference, with some seminars in-person and workshops on-line. The location is yet to be confirmed, but will be kept in the central belt. Attendance will be expected around 100 people.

Slight concern was expressed over the ‘PB in Scotland’ focus given there has been less activity due to the pandemic. David reassured that from now till September, SCDC will create an accumulative bank of examples across Scotland, both in-person and digital PB, that can be shared and celebrated at the conference.

Any other business

Martin highlighted the need to strengthen the governance arrangements of the Strategic Group and to promote joint political oversight of the work around the PB Framework. A stronger partnership approach is needed, whereby public sector organisations and local authorities work together towards implementing the PB Framework. Martin referred to a potential establishment of a Joint PB Delivery Group, that would harness this and supplement the work of the Strategic Group. These new working arrangements will be finessed over time, in collaboration with COSLA and SG PB colleagues. This was supported by the Group and will be discussed further at the next meeting.

Martin also reinforced the membership arrangements of the Strategic Group, which will later be updated in the Terms of Reference. While membership of the Strategic Group is for decision by the Chair, membership within each Sub-Group can be determined and agreed by the respective Conveners and group members.

Next steps

  • prepare formal recommendation report to Scottish Ministers, on embedding green PB processes to existing funding streams. Anticipated deadline by August 2022.  (Martin and Cross-Cutting Priorities Sub-Group)
  • update Terms of Reference regarding membership of the wider group and sub-groups (Tricia)
  • update the Strategic Delivery Plan spreadsheet following meeting discussion (Tricia)

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be held online on Thursday 18 August 2022, from 14:00 till 16:00.



National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group

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