National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group minutes: August 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 27 August 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Martin Johnstone (Chair)
  • Alistair Kennedy, Money for Moray
  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance/Leith Chooses/Leith Links CC
  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • Cit Lennox, SWAMP Glasgow
  • David Reilly, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Elidh Brown, tsiMoray
  • Fiona Garven, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Kathleen Glazik, Scottish Government Community Empowerment Team
  • Katie Brown, COSLA
  • Kelly McBride, Democratic Society
  • Louise Macdonald, Young Scot
  • Nicola Sykes, Education Scotland
  • Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance
  • Stewart Macgregor, Scottish Funders Forum


  • Claire McPherson, Scottish Government Public Service Reform, Public Bodies and Third Sector
  • Louise Long, Chief Officer, Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership

Items and actions


The group was established to provide strategic direction for PB in Scotland, particularly in light of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the opportunities to ‘build back better’ as part of the recovery. In the initial stages (first 6 months) the group will work together to clarify the terms of reference and consider how to drive the work forward with the following considerations in mind:

  • what role does PB have in the Covid-19 recovery phase?
  • what next for PB in the short, medium and long term?
  • how does PB fit within broader reform of public services, democracy and community empowerment?


The first meeting was to make connections and share experiences and ambitions for PB in Scotland. Ultimately, the group will explore how to create the conditions where PB can flourish as part of a system of empowerment and participatory democracy, where citizens have a direct say in decisions that affect their lives. The group will meet four times in the initial stages, until March 2021 where they will decide how best to work together to drive the agenda forward.

Key points made were:

  • great progress has been made over the last few years backed by Government funding and a lot of hard work by many - but we must not get stuck
  • we are ambitious for empowering and accessible PB that is resourced as part of ‘business as usual’ and linked to wider democratic processes
  • PB has to be done well or it could risk widening the equality gap
  • the work can be transformational when influencing mainstream services and when coupled with deliberation. Independent support must be resourced to allow that to happen equitably
  • facilitation and capacity building are key roles. Funders may have a role to play in addressing a context where we have seen an increase in community empowerment policy with a paradoxical decrease in local community development capacity
  • subsidiarity is an important principle with our ambitions not limited to local authorities
  • the 1% target for local authorities is important but we are ambitious for more public sector authorities to be better engaged. Community Planning Partnerships working as intended, are key locations for this work
  • as a group we should consider where are the best places for us to put some of our energy, assets and networks so that PB stands the best possible chance of achieving what we think it is capable of

Governance and accountability

Group members required clarity on how their work could be received and by whom. A discussion highlighted the opportunity for the group to:

  • provide rapid recommendations for policy and practice proposals that feed into the Social Renewal Advisory Board and build on the response to the pandemic to date. More information is provided at Annex A
  • provide a report with recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government annually
  • have on-going influence for PB policy and practice across the public sector
  • consider opportunities to influence future Programmes for Government

Next steps

The key points in section 4 will inform discussions at the next meeting. Further suggested options for first steps included undertaking a mapping exercise of key policies, practice, reforms and initiatives currently underway which could be in some way connected to PB development. This would help the group join the dots and identify bottlenecks which could set the scope for the group on that basis. Also to take time to pause and reset to undertake deep thinking on what has changed due to COVID and work though how we move to successful mainstreaming.

Also to inform next steps the Chair will hold one to one telephone meetings with each member between 14th and 21st September 2020.

Information shared

The following links for further information and reading was shared with the group.

  • a chapter in the latest overview of PB around the world of Participatory Budgeting, Transforming lives, communities and systems? Participatory Budgeting as Co-production, written by Oliver Escobar 
  • PB featuring in discussions of the COVID Public Engagement Expert Advisory Group, the purpose of which is to inform public engagement on post Covid renewal
  • forthcoming information will include data on PB activity in Scotland compiled to be shared with the World Atlas of PB. This is the widest compilation of data on Global PB processes to date and is an opportunity to raise Scotland’s profile and compare progress

Date of next meetings

The next meetings will be held on Thursday 8th October 2020 and Thursday 19th November 2020 both from 2-4pm.

Annex A

Social Renewal Advisory Board Communities and Volunteering Circle summary of recommendations for Programme for Government

Key recommendation

1.    To intensify work with local government, wider public sector partners and the community sector to transform local democracy and take community empowerment to the next level whilst ensuring that equality is built meaningfully into process and practice.

  • build on the existing levers Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, by giving communities more control over the decisions that affect them, driving a participatory budgeting approach to meaningfully include community participation and influence in decisions about public sector funding and providing digital support and training and building lived experiences into the process
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