National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group minutes: June 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Martin Johnstone (Chair)

  • Alistair Kennedy, Money for Moray/Joint Community Councils of Moray

  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance/Leith Decides

  • David Reilly, Scottish Government (Secretariat)

  • Elidh Brown, tsiMoray

  • Fiona Garven, Scottish Community Development Centre

  • Ian Turner

  • Kathleen Glazik, Scottish Government

  • Katey Tabner COSLA

  • Kirsten Urquhart, Young Scot

  • Nicola Sykes, Education Scotland

  • Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh

  • Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance


  • Anil Gupta, COSLA

  • Catriona Maclean, Scottish Government

  • Cit Lennox, SWAMP Glasgow

  • Peter Kelly, the Poverty Alliance

  • Robert Emmott, Dundee City Council/Local Government Directors of Finance network

Items and actions


Jo welcomed members, noted apologies and note from last meeting in March 2021. Explained meeting purpose to consider, discuss and seek agreement  on a Framework for the Future of PB in Scotland and discuss next steps for how this nation group can best support implementation, including by refreshing our membership. 

Kirsten Urquhart, introduced herself as interim Chief Exec of Young Scot replacing Louise Macdonald and having been at Young Scot for 10 years well aware of their work in supporting PB. Ian Turner introduced himself and role in returning to the community empowerment team in the Scottish Government having previously supported the introduction of PB and the Community Empowerment Act.

Martin reminded us that having established a shared ambition and intentions for PB we decided we chose to deliberate more fully in key areas ripe for development. These are: education, housing, health and wellbeing and found lots of interconnections with climate change.  

We are following a timetable for the development of a framework and commissioned Jo Kennedy to support our deliberations.  We have gone wider to others identified by members as interested or important to the work, i.e. in Scottish Youth Parliament, Association of Directors of Education Scotland, Scottish Federation of Housing Association, Tennant Information Service / Tennant Participation Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland, Public Health Scotland, Transport Scotland and Police Scotland in Health. Some discussions have themselves sparked practical opportunities we have capitalised on.  

We now have a distillation of our thinking and priorities. We have also collected material including suggested actions to support our priorities and framework which we will bring together as a supporting document as a resource for this group’s future.

We hope that our framework will be refined and agreed before moving into a next stage, including refreshing the membership of this group to best support implementation. 


Members were asked to share what they liked about the framework, what could be improved and any gaps. 

The facilitated process of developing the framework together was broadly welcomed, 12 of 14 priorities were not discussed so taken as agreed. A summary of feedback includes: 

What we liked:

  • deep discussions were needed and well delivered 
  • placing PB as a method of participatory democracy amongst others rather than a golden ticket to the future was helpful
  • buy-in from more and new public bodies and follow-on actions was helpful and encouraging
  • framework already feels big and any more detail would make it feel top down and imposed locally
  • priority 12 – is very well aligned with a recent £1b commitment from Scottish Government for Pupil Equity Funding and helpful for future proofing
  • given strong emphasis on broadening PB to other public bodies, would like a similar commitment to working with a diverse third sector. This diversity helps keep PB grounded and supports implementation
  • a key message for the new minister should be that PB can be the 'how' part of a number of things proposed recently by various linked processes e.g. Climate Assembly's recommendations on community empowerment, Just Transition Commission recommendations, Local Governance Review, Social Renewal Board

Areas for improvement:

  • sharpen up some of the equality content
  • would be useful to keep this deliberation going
  • nervous in case we are setting ambition too high when we haven’t completed base camp yet
  • key principles of co-production and equality should be stressed to prevent framework landing as being top-down
  • helpful to continue to consider how this framework fits with the day-to-day work of local and national organisations if our aim is to help others to do their work as effectively as possible. Including National Performance Framework, a Children’s Rights Perspective and UNCRC


  • more buy-in from the wider public sector would be helpful. In the area of transport more engagement of key players is needed
  • a lack of time has hindered GDAs involvement and may mean that voices for equality have been missed
  • a gap on the role of systemic research alongside standardised evaluation of PB processes by communities, PB implementers or both. Identified a need for central co-ordination and structure for learning that is purposeful but without overburdening implementers. More energy in this area would help us be more productive
  • the lack of practice in mainstreaming is a current barrier
  • we should begin with saying what has been achieved; people taking part, there is a network of 1,300 practitioners etc. A tight paragraph would be welcome

A shared understanding of participatory budgeting 

We heard that disabled people are not able to participate locally without additional support yet want to be involved in participation, deliberation and dialogue in decision making. New arrangements around participation in budget decisions may not work for disabled people when, for example, existing best practice such as national standards for community engagement are not followed. Suggestion therefor of adding ‘resources’ to a definition. 

Discussed possible negative impacts, including questioning the purpose of a definition as capturing ‘what’ PB is rather than ‘how’ it should be best done. Views included the role of PB as part of a suite of democratic arrangements, that are complimentary but distinct. Important to retain distinctions as words have real meaning that require specific actions. These actions lead to outcomes.

Discussed ‘threats’ of widening a definition in this way which include:

  • PB has a fundament focus on a budget, if we lose that we describe something else
  • ‘resource’ can be widely interpreted and used to bring into scope consultation on vaguer resource allocation, less likely to have positive outcomes
  • that PB was born precisely because marginalized communities don’t get a say in decision making
  • that 122,000 voters in Community Choices funded processes demonstrates effectiveness in motivating people to participate in budget decisions, we risk losing that if widening scope to a more ‘vague’ role in influencing resources
  • an effective definition is short and precise
  • that ‘resources’ may be inherently a subset of ‘budget’ so unnecessary

Next steps; 

  • will add a glossary of what each key word in our definition means 
  • better frame the definition by adding text to recognise that marginalized groups are unrepresented in all parts of our system of government, that people are excluded from decision making and we must commit to working harder to address this
  • that members will respond to amendments to reflect this discussion by 2nd July

Other – housing, priority 13

It was agreed that this priority could be improved by rephrasing as:

  • priority 13 - we use PB processes as a mechanism for housing providers to engage with their tenants and the wider community in the allocation of funds that contribute to the wellbeing and place based agenda.  Achieving outcomes identified by communities and tenants by working in partnership with communities, tenants associations, Third Sector Interfaces and Community Planning Partnerships

Next steps

Restated that further equalities testing is seminal to our future work. A key principle is not to over promise for PB but to offer as a method that can help achieve outcomes in the areas by taking a co-productive approach with people with lived experience in particular policy areas. Further testing planned with youth workers, Scottish Youth Parliament, and Homeless Network Scotland Change team for what we hope will be  live and dynamic document. 

That members agreed to share any response or further edits by 2nd July and a further meeting of the group could be held if required.

In meantime Framework will be shared as a ‘work in progress’ with Tom Arthur, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth to seek political buy-in and answer a call by the Social Renewal Advisory Board by addressing the question ‘what does extending PB look like?’.  We seek to balance a desire for a perfect document versus meeting an important opportunity to influence program for government.

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