National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group minutes: December 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 1 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Martin Johnstone, Chair
  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance
  • Christopher Robb,  Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • David Allan, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Ellie Craig, Member of Youth Scottish Parliament
  • Fiona Garven, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Gavin Crosby, Young Scot 
  • Kathleen Glazik, Scottish Government
  • Michael Wood, Education Scotland (On behalf of Peter McNaughton) 
  • Oliver Escobar,  University of Edinburgh
  • John Munro, COSLA
  • Jillian Matthews, Audit Scotland
  • Jo Kennedy, Animate Consulting
  • Doreen Grove, Scottish Government


  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • Kevin Ditcham, Police Scotland
  • Kirsten Urquhart, Young Scot
  • Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance
  • David Kidd, Homeless Network Scotland
  • Stuart Matheson, Scottish Government
  • David Reilly, Poverty Alliance
  • Jane O’ Donnell, Scottish Government
  • Neil Ritch, National Lottery, Scotland
  • Robert Emmott, Dundee City Council/Local Government Directors of Finance group
  • Sarah Robertson, YouthLink Scotland
  • Tricia Ma, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and overview

The Chair welcomed members to the fifth meeting of the group. The Chair explained the purpose of the meeting, which was to look at the Annual Summary Report for 2021 - 2022, and to look back at the previous year to know what should be prioritised for the upcoming year. This was also an opportunity for Kathleen and Doreen from the Scottish Government to present the Community Empowerment Act Review and Open Government work, which may support the PB agenda.

Minutes of last meeting

Minutes of the meeting held on 18 August 2022 was agreed by the Group.

Participatory budgeting and young people  

Gavin Crosby discussed how young people (aged 11-26) are  embracing PB, particularly involved in voting phases. However, more is needed to be done to involve young people in PB earlier on around the co-design of the PB process.

It was raised that young people are very engaged with each other around PB but feel they cannot take that enthusiasm anywhere further than the conversation between themselves. Another concern raised is that adults are setting the tone for PB for young people, which makes it more difficult for young people to feel their voice has an impact.

Equality was the main issue that is raised by young people who are engaging with PB, more specifically referring to access to the school services or activities. For example, access is an issue for young people where there is a lack of transport or safety concerns related to getting to appropriate meetings. Ellie raised that co-design at the very start of PB process will help with inclusivity.

There was further discussion in the group that School, Youth PB and PB in general should be examined further to attempt to link these functions together. Further funding would be required to demonstrate how young people PB can work better and give the opportunity to demonstrate interest and potential expertise. Gavin referred to the Scottish Parliament, who are devoting more money to youth PB and reflected on the positive work of South Lanarkshire, with good experience of using the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) for PB.

2021 - 2022 reflection – annual report, progress and challenges

The Chair briefly discussed the annual report for 2021 - 2022 with the group, where there was general consensus that the report accurately reflected activity and was generally positive.

The Chair presented the potential idea for a joint delivery group for PB and opened up for comment from COSLA and Scottish Government representatives. John (COSLA) identified the potential benefits of building an infrastructure, recognising that there is a significant amount of PB activity going on but needs to be tied to the strategic framework. The ambitions of any PB cannot be delivered if it is not in line with what local government can deliver. A delivery group could help with these points and while involving other interested parties outside of local government could reap benefit if avoiding any overlap in representation.

Several members of the group echoed the concern of who will (and will not) be involved in a joint delivery group. Chaired by COSLA members and ministers could be conceived as not democratic, whereas having external involvement will allow for more balanced scrutiny (e.g. third/community sector). Angus alluded to other groups that exist that the strategic group can engage with to support the PB framework, such as the Local Governance Group and Open Government Group. Fiona also mentioned the potential link up to the Scottish Leader’s Forum. There was also concern of a top-down approach this new group would create.

The Chair recognised the anxiety that this could lead to another body but also recognised there needs to be a mechanic to marry the ambitions and deliverables to help with permission-giving, challenge and dealing with blockages. Such a delivery group is one possibility that can be reflected in the report but there may be other structures could be implemented. The group acknowledged that this was the general feel for a joint delivery PB group

Although COSLA’s proposal to jointly establish a national PB delivery group is welcomed by SG, Kathleen raised concerns about SG’s community empowerment team’s capacity to support another national PB group, and also to the Minister’s capacity to co-chair a narrow-remitted group, solely focused on PB.

Exploring the role of NPBSG in wider participatory democracy

Kathleen from Scottish Government provided a brief overview of the plans to review the Community Empowerment Act Review, including information around each part of the review and what it hopes to achieve. Discussions included the potential for the group to look at Part 10 (Participation in public decision-making) as part of the review. Part 10 involves regulation-making power, enabling Ministers to require Scottish public authorities to promote and facilitate the participation of members of the public in the decisions and activities of the authority, including in the allocation of its resources. This led to a discussion with Doreen Group about the OGP.

Doreen from Scottish Government discussed some of the current Open Government work that is helping contribute to participatory democracy. The group was invited to begin a conversation arising out of the report of the Institutionalising Participatory and Deliberative Democracy (IPDP) Working Group. These discussions, which remain at an early stage, include considering the National PB Strategic Group to broaden its remit to include oversight of the wider participatory and deliberative democracy agenda. Whilst members were cautious not to lose focus on PB as a group, the group saw advantages in the potential development of this work and  agreed to consider this in the future. The Chair expressed a willingness on behalf of the group to further discussions prior to the next meeting.

Setting out priorities for 2023 - 2024

The final part of the agenda was to set out the priorities for the group going forward into the next year. Jo Kennedy facilitated this session, laying out the 16 priorities from the strategic framework to the group where each member of the group chose and voted on what the priorities should be going forward.

The outcome of this is that the group acknowledged the following priorities:

  • Improving a shared understanding of PB
  • Evidence of the long-term impact of PB
  • Climate justice
  • PB across education
  • PB in schools

Next steps

  • Martin to make final changes to the report as discussed from meeting and shared with the group for final comment.
  • Sub-group working arrangements are not working as effectively, but rather short life working groups would be a better approach. Members to reflect on what can be done to help further the set out priorities.
  • Group to consider exploring Part 10 Participation in Public Decision Making as part of the review of the Community Empowerment Act.
  • Martin to progress discussions relating to the IPDP Working Group with officers as appropriate.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be held online at 14:00 till 16:00 on 2nd March 2023.


National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group

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