National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 1 June 2023.


Attendees and apologies

  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance
  • Anil Gupta, COSLA
  • David Allan, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • David Reilly, Poverty Alliance
  • Doreen Grove, Scottish Government
  • Gavin Crosby, Young Scot 
  • John Munro, COSLA
  • Kathleen Glazik, Scottish Government
  • Kevin Ditcham, Police Scotland
  • Martin Johnstone, Chair
  • Neil Ritch, National Lottery Community Fund, Scotland
  • Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh
  • Peter McNaughton, Education Scotland
  • Robert Emmott, Dundee City Council/Local Government Directors of Finance group
  • Susan Paxton, Scottish Community Development Centre


  • Kirsten Urquhart, Young Scot
  • Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance
  • Jane O’ Donnell, Scottish Government
  • Ellie Craig, Member of Youth Scottish Parliament
  • Tricia Ma, Scottish Government
  • Michael Wood, Education Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and overview

The Chair welcomed members and apologies were noted. The Chair thanked Kevin Ditcham, Police Scotland for agreeing to start the meeting with an overview of Police Scotland’s PB initiative in Caithness ‘Your Police, You Decide’. This would be followed by a focus on updates from the four Short Life Task Groups established to address some of the priorities set out in the National PB Framework. The Chair also thanked Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government for attending the meeting to lead a discussion on the paper shared to explore the group’s expanding remit to the wider participatory democracy agenda.

Minute of last meeting

The minute of the meeting held on 2 March 2023 was agreed by the Group.

Your policy, you decide

Kevin provided a presentation on Police Scotland and Caithness Voluntary Group’s PB process to decide how £32,000 could be spent in the Caithness area. Funded by the Scottish Government, the PB process was focused on improving safety and wellbeing. Run from summer 2022, the process saw 821 votes cast across 18 projects with voting run online and at in person locations. The approach by Police Scotland was driven by a recent articles by the Auditor General for Scotland that suggests that public organisations in Scotland have not done enough to achieve the vision of more involvement by communities in decision making set out by the Christie Commission over a decade ago. The presentation slides are attached separately and more detailed information about the PB process is available at Caithness: Your Police, You Decide - Police Scotland - Citizen Space

A brief Q&A session followed and members were interested to learn if the PB initiative helped improve confidence in the police. Kevin agreed that there were great conversations on the ground and it was also about the community’s understanding of their ability to influence. It was also about building a relationship of trust between the local community and the police on the ground. The project also raised awareness of PB at strategic level in Police Scotland and there is interest in other PB projects.

Short life task groups update

The Chair thanked the short life task groups for providing the detailed pro forma templates which identified the ‘what’ and ‘how’ the groups would take forward strategic support for PB and invited each one to provide an update.  

Kathleen provided an update for the Improving a shared understanding of PB Priority Task Group which is both about making sure that there is a better understanding of what PB is amongst partners promoting it but also about increasing public awareness. Task group members are Kathleen, Robert, John and Angus.

The purpose was to explore what good PB looks like and whether activity to date is about democracy, community empowerment, tackling inequality or all/none of these. The group approached this by meeting on line with organisations with practical experience of PB initiatives as follows: 

  • South Lanarkshire Council to hear about their £2.5 million roads budget and the difference PB has made to the improved relationship between those working on the ground and the communities they work for or with. The group also heard about the impressive PB happening across every school in South Lanarkshire, both primary and secondary with a total of 146 school using a percentage of the pupil equity fund. The whole school community get to vote to include parents and carers. Over £500,000 was allocated by the school community last year.
  • Dundee Carer’s Centre to hear about their PB work with unpaid carers. £60,000 funding was provided by the Health and Social Care Partnership split between two areas. Carer’s valued the opportunity to influence decisions on services as they generally felt left out or ‘disenfranchised’ in decision making.
  • Renfrewshire Council to hear about their £1.2 million Environment & Infrastructure PB initiative. A huge amount of preparation time over two years bringing people with them on the journey such as elected members, environment staff and communications colleagues.

The group also wanted to consider how PB can be more broadly framed as part the Local Governance Review and Community Wealth Building and met with Scottish Government leads where it was agreed that there was lots of synergies and this needs to be explored further. The group will also meet with Police Scotland.

The task group will consider what they have heard and will draft a summary report with recommendations for the national group at the next meeting. The presentation slides are attached separately.

David Allan provided an update for the Climate Justice Priority Task Group – group members are David, David (Reilly), Oliver and Anil. The group acknowledges that it has been great to see the work that is developing in this area but that there is a need to keep the momentum going here so that PB is part of the core engagement offer around climate justice. Key areas that the Task Group has discussed so far are:

On-going updates and communication

This will be 2-way with practice updates coming from the Green PB Action Group either via David Allan or direct input from Green PB Action Group members. Strategic updates from the National Strategic Group will be disseminated through PB Scotland network and the Green PB Action Group. Need to build on/support the developing community of practice in NE Scotland.

Linking climate justice more strongly with PD approaches and PB

We should seek to explore inputs to Local Authorities (and elected members in particular) on the opportunities to widen their participation around climate justice through Green PB or other PD approaches. This could be at COSLA Conference or through elected members training.

Community Capacity Building for climate justice

The focus should be on targeted capacity building with those communities who face greatest challenges and (potentially) have the lowest capacity. Recommend that we build on the learning from the Just Transitions NE work and use this to inform focused learning/networking package for communities such as Grangemouth.

Funding/resourcing for PB (and wider PD approaches) on climate justice

There is a need for a roundtable discussion/seminar involving a wide range of partners (public sector, private sector, government, funders) to explore possible funding sources for PB (and PD) to address climate issues. PB Scotland are beginning to develop work on this in relation to wider PB resourcing – David Allan to progress.

 There was no update available from the Coordinating evidence of the long-term impact of PB and PB in Education (including schools).

Q and A session

In the brief Q and A that followed, members welcomed the updates and valued hearing about the impressive PB initiatives and the update on climate justice. The need for significant resource to run successful PB projects is clear but the impact on community relations and trust in public services is a very important outcome from PB processes. The 1% PB target for local authorities was seen as helpful to get buy in from elected members and senior officers in the council. The current draft Partnership Deal between SG and COSLA could be an opportunity for better multi agency community planning partnership approach. 

Members are keen not to lose sight of the opportunity to engage with the developing community wealth building and local governance review policies and legislative programmes. It was agreed that the task group work will help better understand what motivates people to undertake PB, what difference it makes and how it makes people’s lives better. 

Highlighted for information was the Open Government the Climate Policy Engagement Network launched in April for organisations interested in climate action, it already has almost a hundred organisations and individuals link Climate . Also highlighted was Growing Climate Confidence and the suggestion that it would be good to get Green PB embedded in this new tool supporting Scotland's Third Sector towards net zero and engaging their community.

The PB in Education task group highlighted the need for administrative resource to help progress their work. The Chair acknowledged the challenges and time constraints and suggested that an opportunity for the task group would be to champion the Schools PB in South Lanarkshire and help share learning. The Chair also agreed to explore administrative support with SG.

Expanding remit to wider participatory democracy paper

Doreen highlighted the Institutionalising Participatory and Deliberative Democracy Working Group’s recommendation for how the Scottish Government's ambition for change can be delivered to make Scotland’s democracy more participative and inclusive. Doreen reiterated that this group would be a good fit to have strategic oversight of this recommendation.

Included at Annex A is a note of the meeting held on 18 April 2023 which explored the possibility of expanding the group’s remit to a wider participatory democracy role. As outlined in the note which was shared with members prior to this meeting, discussions concluded general support for an expanded remit. The Chair invited members to consider the opportunities, challenges and potential next steps. 

Key points made were:

  • as participatory democracy could encompass any participatory decision making, membership of the group with such a large remit could be challenging, so early agreement on the group’s bandwidth will be crucial.
  • the group would take a strategic role rather than looking at the micro/technical details. It would be more about innovative participative democracy and strengthening democracy by challenging the status quo by moving away from traditional structures and explicitly being more inclusive. Giving shared accountability around shifting power and developing language to ensure good practise in participation.
  • there needs to be clarity on the group’s scope for scrutiny and expanding/changing the current groups membership would need to be looked at to bring in expertise and knowledge.
  • the expanded remit would seek to maintain the importance and a high level focus on PB, not least because an important aspect of PB is that power comes with money and equality comes with voting. As practice around participation in Scotland is much bigger than PB, expanding the remit of the group makes sense. There’s been a significant focus on PB which has been successful and the lessons of PB can be applied to other participatory democracy methods.
  • important that the group’s work is adequately resourced to include secretariat support and opportunity to engage with Scottish Government Social Researchers when needed. 
  • broader participation will be less prescriptive – there is currently a lack of consistency in participation and there needs to be a consistent approach to skills and resourcing across the tiers of our democratic infrastructure.
  • relationship between the proposed group, local government and Scottish Parliament, as well as Scottish government will be important as will relationships with other public bodies.  Governance structures with local government will be important and the role of Community Planning Partners need to be explored. The SG/COSLA proposed New Deal will help inform thinking.
  • helping to frame the strategic approach to involving people in decisions affecting them will be core to this work.

The Chair thanked members for their feedback and steer.  The next steps will include drafting a remit for a potential revised group and membership based on feedback heard today, and a meeting of the smaller group will be arranged to consider this further.

Any other business

The Chair informed members that he is meeting Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance on 20 June 2023 to discuss the group’s work and invited topics for conversation.

Next steps and action

  • OGP policy will draw up a draft remit for a new group and proposed membership
  • CE policy will arrange a meeting with a smaller group to discuss the proposed remit
  • Education Task Group to consider championing the PEF PB in South Lanarkshire
  • SG to explore administrative support for the Education Task Group
  • members to send the Chair topics for discussion at the Minister’s meeting

Date of next meeting

With venues to be confirmed, the next meetings will be held from 14:00 to 16:00 on:

  • Thursday 7 September 2023
  • Thursday 7 December 2023
  • Thursday 7 March 2024
  • Thursday 6 June 2024
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