Climate change - Net Zero Nation - draft public engagement strategy: consultation analysis

Analysis of the responses to the public consultation on the climate change - Net Zero Nation: draft public engagement strategy, which sets out our framework for engaging the people of Scotland in the transition to a net zero nation which is prepared for the effects of our changing climate.

1. Overall approach to public engagement on climate change

This chapter presents the analysis of responses to questions one to three, which cover the overall approach to public engagement on climate change, including views on the three objectives underpinning the approach and the seven principles for public engagement.

Key Findings:

  • There was broad support for the overall approach to public engagement outlined in the strategy and the objectives and principles underpinning it. Three fifths welcomed, supported, or agreed with the objectives. Two thirds endorsed the principles, describing them as good, excellent, sound, appropriate or helpful.
  • Suggestions to improve each objective were clearly identified:
    • It was felt that Objective 1 (Communicate) should include enhanced public understanding of climate change policy, as well as awareness.
    • The prevalent theme for Objective 2 (Participate) was for participation to be inclusive and reflective of all parts of society.
    • There were calls for Objective 3 (Action) to focus on enabling as well as encouraging action. Respondents welcomed the inclusion of communities; most agreed communities are well placed to know the requirements and limitations of their local areas and called for them to have input into decision making.
  • While respondents were most likely to indicate that no additional objectives were required, some suggested a more explicit objective around education.
  • The Just and Putting People First principles were most widely welcomed. There were calls for more detail on how the principles would be applied locally, e.g. how communities’ voices will be heard, and how communities will be trained, supported and resourced to drive change.

Q1a. What are your views on the three objectives underpinning our approach to engagement on climate change?

Q1b. Do you think that any of these objectives should be removed or changed?

Q1c. Are there any objectives that you think should be included that are currently missing?

The vast majority of respondents (153/178) answered Q1a, and three-quarters (135/178) answered Q1b. Respondents expressed broad support for the objectives. At Q1a, three-fifths used terms to indicate that they welcomed, supported, agreed with or endorsed the wording or nature of the objectives. They were described as good, excellent, robust, clear, helpful, and appropriate. While many did still make suggestions for how the objectives could be improved, at Q1b three in ten responded that they did not think any changes were required.

While Q1b asked respondents to consider changes to the objectives, many chose to raise their concerns or suggestions at Q1a, leading to repetition across responses to these two questions. This chapter begins with an analysis of comments about each objective across questions 1a and 1b, followed by a discussion of additional themes. Respondents' suggestions for new objectives are summarised at the end of the analysis of question one.

Objective 1: Communicate

Communicating Climate Change Policy: People are aware of the action that the Scottish Government is taking to address climate change and how it relates to their lives

Public awareness and understanding of climate change policy

The most common view on Objective 1 was a call for greater scope; to go beyond awareness of action by the Scottish Government. Comments on a wider definition of awareness included suggestions it could be expanded to include, for example, reasons for climate change and the impact on people's lives and health. On this theme, several suggested the objective should include an intention to enhance public understanding of these issues, reflecting a perception that understanding is deeper than awareness. A few specifically called for the objective to be defined as "deepening public understanding of the climate emergency", while others called for some mention of understanding to be included.

"We believe that the first objective would be better defined as 'deepening public understanding of the climate emergency' and should not just be concerned with awareness of Scottish Government action. Also, it is important that people are not just 'aware' of Scottish Government policy but really believe that the Scottish Government is serious about focussing all its efforts and Programme for Government on a joined up approach to tackling all the interconnected crises facing us." - Scottish Communities Climate Action Network

Related to this, some respondents called for an emphasis on education and climate literacy within Objective 1. For example, a few suggested the public could have more awareness and understanding of their own emissions or carbon footprint, of the sources of Scottish greenhouse gas emissions, and the concept of net zero. Others emphasised the potential to include climate change in formal and informal education, ensuring people are well-informed and able to talk about the issues.

Highlighting the seriousness of the issue

Some respondents noted the importance of communicating that the Scottish Government is serious about tackling climate change. They suggested the objective must convey that the Scottish Government is focused on a long-term, joined-up approach and is prepared to make radical decisions and changes. A few noted their desire to "see the words in the strategy followed through into action and meaningful support".

A move from individual to collective responsibility

A consistent, albeit less frequently mentioned, concern across all three objectives was that use of the word 'people' suggested the emphasis and expectation was on individual behaviour change, or in the case of objective three, solely on communities. Respondents argued that all objectives should include a much wider definition to encourage engagement. Suggestions included: by all of society, civil society, faith groups, communities, businesses, companies, workplaces, organisations and the agriculture and energy sectors.

Specific wording changes

Specific wording changes suggested by a few respondents included:

  • Amending the description to: "The Scottish Government will increase awareness of the activities it is undertaking to create a net zero nation".
  • Clarification if 'it' refers to Government action or climate change.
  • Change "… it relates to their lives" to "… how this will impact their lives", or "how it relates to their lives and ways of living."
  • One called for the use of 'climate crisis or 'climate emergency' in engagement and communication rather than climate change. They welcomed the use of 'adaptation' and 'mitigation' as they avoid the impression the problem can be fixed or stopped.
  • James Hutton Institute provided a detailed response on how the wording of the actions under Objective 1 could be improved. These suggestions included more focus on the actions the public needs to take, not public policies; strengthening the emphasis on climate education to include lifelong learning and scientific engagement; and greater recognition of the activities of the creative sector to inspire action on climate change.

Further additions or changes

Small numbers made other suggestions to improve Objective 1, including:

  • The need to communicate more than just Scottish Government policy. Respondents argued that the actions of local authorities, public bodies, industry, other sectors and community groups should also be referenced in the objective. One called for people to be made aware of global policy trends.
  • Referring to the benefits that will result from the Scottish Government taking action, two called for the addition of "and the benefits it will bring" to the end of the objective.
  • Concerns that the focus on communication suggested a one-way approach to engagement rather than an ongoing dialogue with the public. These respondents suggested including 'dialogue' in the title or wording of the objective.

Singular comments included: to include the impact on people's health; making clear the actions are based on the best available scientific advice; the need to educate the public on bigger policy responses, e.g. taxation; and to include learning from other countries.

General comments

Other themes were each mentioned by a few respondents. These included:

  • The need to take an inclusive approach, reaching younger and older groups, people with disabilities and those less likely to be engaged.
  • Concerns that as well as being aware of Scottish Government policy, the public must be aware of the actions they need to take because of those policies.
  • Suggestions for how people could be made aware, e.g. using public education and awareness campaigns, regional hubs and the arts and culture sectors.
  • Calls for a collaborative approach and the sharing of best practice.
  • Very small numbers questioned whether the strategy is sufficiently ambitious to engage the public and acknowledgement that not everyone is likely to engage.

Objective 2: Participate

Enabling Participation in Policy Design: People actively participate in shaping fair and inclusive policies that encourage adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

Ensuring inclusive participation

The prevalent theme across the discussion of Objective 2 was a need for participation to be inclusive, reflective of all parts of society and not tokenistic. Some respondents also raised this more generally in their responses to Q1a.

Most responses highlighted specific groups to be included in participatory approaches. These included older and younger people, farmers, people with disabilities, those who would not usually engage, vulnerable or disadvantaged groups and those most likely to be impacted by climate change. YouthLink Scotland called for a separate objective for young people:

"Within the second policy objective we would encourage explicit recognition of the role of young people within enabling participation and policy design. It is contained within an action. However, we believe it deserves to be a stand-alone objective…There is no group more affected in Scotland than our young people. As such, we would like to see the strategy state more explicitly that our young people stand to be the most affected by climate change and that they should have a central role in decision making processes and policy design." – YouthLink Scotland

A few described tailored participation methods to reflect these groups' needs, including digital platforms and called for more detail in the objective or a wider plan on how these would be provided.

Specific wording changes

A few respondents suggested specific wording changes. These included:

  • "People understand how to, and actively participate in…"
  • That mitigation should come before adaptation to emphasise the primary goal.
  • "…actively participate in… policies and decision making…"
  • Renaming the objective to "Ensuring Participation in Policy Design & Evaluation" and "Enabling and actively tackling barriers to participation".
  • "Opening up a range of appropriate and tailored opportunities for the people of Scotland to be given a voice on the development of climate policies, through best practice Climate Assemblies approaches or genuine community engagement processes as initiated in Scotland to ensure they are fair and inclusive".

Further additions or changes

The remaining suggestions were very specific and varied. These included singular comments that: the objective missed participating in action; more detail was needed on the desired levels of participation; it should include participatory engagement with local communities during and after the development of Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies; and that it would benefit from including greater partnerships with local authorities to deliver the strategy. Respondents questioned if there was scope to address the accountability of public and private entities, and what the process would be for dealing with or acting on recommendations which result from public and community participation.

General comments

A few offered general comments of support, while others highlighted strengths including: the evidence-based approach; the inclusion of young people in the objective; examples of how people could participate; and the importance of empowering people to participate.

Objective 3: Action

Encouraging Action: Taking action on climate change is normalised and encouraged in communities and places across Scotland

Enabling action

Several respondents called for Objective 3 to move from 'encouraging' to 'enabling' change; some explicitly called for the wording to include 'supported' or 'enabled'. Other suggested the strategy should be more ambitious in this respect. In these comments, some noted people might want to take action but need support from the Government and others to do this. A few called for the strategy to include examples of steps the public can take. Conversely, a few noted that a 'top-down' approach will not be effective, and that the Government also needs to support and encourage community action. A detailed response from an academic who responded as an individual noted that: "Encouraging without enabling could actually be counter-productive: it will be frustrating for people to be increasingly aware of the need for urgent action, and feel pressure to act, if they feel unable to take action."

In addition, some respondents suggested the objective could consider the broader changes required to enable action. These comments detailed the need to understand the financial and practical barriers, or the lack of capacity, resources or skills, which prevent people, communities or specific groups taking action, and to address these with appropriate support and infrastructure. A few noted that wider structural change is needed beyond individuals changing their behaviour.

"Rather than "encouraging" change it may be more appropriate to seek to "enable" action. 'Encouraging' puts the onus on the individual, and risks not acknowledging the real challenges that individuals face in trying to make positive changes that they already know are important to make (given the increase in the importance the public place on climate action). 'Enabling' demonstrates the government & related organisations acknowledge these individual challenges and what individuals need is support reducing these barriers to change rather than motivation to address them on their own." – Community Energy Scotland

Related to broader change, a small number specifically mentioned the importance of education. A few noted some individuals or groups lack the knowledge, or climate literacy, needed to take action. Others called for greater education to address this, highlighted work already being done (for example the STEM strategy mentioned in the Offshore Wind Policy Statement[7] and the Glasgow Science Centre's tools to help communities build capacity through STEM learning), and noted specific actions e.g. implementing the Learning for Sustainability action plan.

Importance of supporting communities

The reference to communities under Objective 3 was the focus of the second largest number of comments. A small number welcomed the shift in focus from individuals to a broader, place-based approach. More common were comments which reiterated the importance of communities in encouraging and enabling action. Many suggested the strategy should include more detail about how communities will be adequately supported and funded to perform this role. It was also suggested that the strategy should include more detail about what is already happening at the community level in Scotland. One respondent called for the actions under this objective to be more ambitious, for example "continue to champion and fund community-led climate action", meaning the Scottish Government should be stimulating new projects, creating funding for this, and encouraging collaboration in organisations and training.

Specific wording changes

A few respondents suggested specific wording changes. These included:

  • Changing 'taking action' to 'taking immediate action' was frequently mentioned. Similarly one suggested '…normalised and prioritised in communities…".
  • "Encouraging action" should be changed to "achieving action".
  • Amending the action point to "Work with partners to help people understand climate change through its connections with nature and biodiversity".
  • Renaming the objective as "Ensuring action" or "Everyone taking action".
  • Adding transformational change to the description.

Further additions or changes

A small number called for the strategy to illustrate how individuals and communities would benefit from taking action. Other suggested changes to Objective 3 were mostly singular suggestions. These included: referencing taking action on the best available scientific advice; outlining how Scottish Government will address the 'value-action gap' (where the public are concerned but do not take action); highlighting that adaptation will be a continual process and not a one-off; clarifying what is meant by 'normalising'; including examples and feedback on actions already happening around Scotland; emphasising that change is part of an international movement; setting out the actions from other documents referred to in the strategy; noting there may be resistance to new climate change technologies; and a stronger call to action with more urgency.

One respondent suggested that if Objective 1 focuses more on a deeper understanding of climate change as discussed above, then Objective 3 could be re-focused on building capacity through skills, resources/funding and network building.

Other comments

Positive comments were made by a few respondents, welcoming or supporting the focus on action. Other comments included: for people to feel empowered to take action; knowledge of the technologies that support action and for the public to be aware of these; for public and private leadership to encourage individuals to take action; and the importance of state-led climate action and support for change.

Other views on the objectives

Calls for urgency and leadership

Several respondents called for the objectives to reflect the seriousness and urgency of tackling climate change. They called for the Scottish Government to show strong leadership through the strategy and more widely, by considering climate change in all Government policies and actions. They saw this leadership as essential in getting public backing for their plans.

Less frequent themes

Another theme was to link the strategy to the wider climate change context and other strategies. Comments included the need to highlight what other parts of society, e.g. universities, industry and the media, are doing to drive change and to help people understand what is happening elsewhere in the world. Respondents also called for the strategy to work alongside, for example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals[8] and the Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan Update[9].

Small numbers of respondents highlighted other themes including discussion around the priority order of the objectives. Most comments called for Objective 3 - Action - to be given highest priority, arguing the importance of the public taking action and normalising environmental decisions.

Other points raised by respondents included: the need for a summary linking the strategy's objectives and principles to action and impacts, particularly in terms of the effect on people's lives; more information on how the Government will "work collaboratively and consistently" with local authorities; better explanation of values-based communication; more detail on how trusted messengers will be supported and resourced; and calls for more clarity on what will be communicated to the public.

A few participants responded to the question with answers or information which were not within the scope of this consultation.

Question 1c: Missing objectives

Over two thirds (122/178) answered Q1c. The most common response was from respondents stating that no additional objectives were required; a small number noted they were sufficiently broad and high-level. Second most common were suggested changes to the existing objectives; these are addressed in the analysis above.

Calls for new objectives was the third most prevalent theme at Q1c and some suggestions on this theme were also shared at Q1a. Most common were calls for an objective on enabling action; this is discussed above, under Objective 3. Others included:

  • A more explicit objective around education, for example, emphasising climate change impacts and mitigation throughout the curriculum, and developing science-led education and training programmes for all parts of society.
  • Facilitating engagement with local councils around local decisions.
  • Actively encouraging collaboration across agencies, sectors and communities.
  • Inclusion of the objectives set out in Housing to 2040, Scotland's fuel poverty objectives and alignment with the Fuel Poverty Strategy.
  • Creating and communicating a positive vision for Scotland.
  • An objective around the role of public space, public services, and private businesses, i.e. beyond the current focus on the engagement of individuals.

Other themes

The remaining themes were identified in small numbers of responses. These included:

  • Calls to consider climate change across all areas of work and policy. Suggestions included incentivisation to support change, the development of innovative solutions, and using legislation and taxation to drive change.
  • Involving business and industry; communicating the actions that need to be taken by and in conjunction with businesses, and the steps they are already taking.
  • Comments about involving local communities and collaboration, such as engaging with councils and planning processes, cross sectoral collaboration between the government, and knowledge exchange between stakeholders.
  • Developing or showcasing practical solutions or examples so the public understand what action to take and adopting new approaches or behaviours is normalised.
  • Calls for a greater sense of urgency and stronger action being taken.
  • A desire for citizens to be informed of what they need to do and enabled to make changes; a commitment to a well-being economy; an emphasis that climate change is repairable, and that Scotland can ensure the success of climate change policies.

Views on the seven principles for public engagement

Q2a. What are your views on our seven principles for public engagement?

Q2b. Do you think that any of these principles should be removed or changed?

Q2c. Are there any principles of good public engagement on climate change that you think are missing?

Question two asked respondents about the seven principles for public engagement outlined in the strategy (see Appendix D). There was significant overlap in responses across the three parts of question two. The analysis below presents views expressed on each of the principles across question two, followed by other views on the principles generally.

Three quarters of respondents (149/178) answered Q2a, and two thirds (121/178) answered Q2b. The most common response to Q2a was an endorsement of the principles. Almost two thirds noted they agreed, welcomed or supported the principles or described them in positive terms such as good, excellent, sound, appropriate or helpful. In addition, at Q2b one quarter of respondents stated that no further changes were needed to the principles, and at Q1c one in six felt that nothing was missing.


Most frequently mentioned about the first principle were the positive benefits that could be promoted. Respondents mentioned improved health and wellbeing, green jobs and skills, cleaner environments, and addressing fuel poverty. A few comments noted the value of telling positive stories of progress that communities have already made. A small number of organisations noted how they have engaged positively with the public.

While some welcomed or supported positive engagement, a similar number noted that communication needs to be balanced and realistic. They were concerned that the public need to be aware of the scale of the task, that hard choices will need to be made, and the seriousness of the consequences if action is not taken.

One or two respondents proposed several changes to the principle. These included: that positivity may be more likely to come from a people feeling a sense of agency and purpose, rather than from an uplifting vision; the need to focus on climate as the central message rather than motivations of saving money or having new technology; and considering Arnstein's 'ladder of participation' to support active engagement. Two respondents suggested including positive feedback loops or creating a 'Co-Benefits Tracker' to keep the public informed of progress and successes to date.

Specific wording changes proposed included:

  • Rewording to "We will take a positive enabling approach that outlines a vision for climate action that promotes the many co-benefits and seeks to remove barriers to taking action."
  • Adding "…with potential benefits to our health, wellbeing, and local communities as well as the creation of new jobs" to highlight job opportunities.
  • Whether a word like 'Imaginative' or 'Courage' might be better than Positive.
  • Adding: "'Our approach will be one where each actor whether, group, person, sector or organisation is seen as being able to contribute to addressing the climate crisis, involving everyone in developing the solutions.".

Putting People First

Putting People First received the second highest number of positive comments of all the principles. It was welcomed and described as important, essential, and critical. Conversely, a very small number provided negative feedback, suggesting it was hard to know what the principle meant in practice and noting a concern that the draft strategy suggested public engagement would only happen for some policies.

A range of suggested improvements were given; each was made by a small number of respondents. There were calls for more emphasis on a place-based or community-based approach where people in communities are listened to and supported to make changes in their local area. A few respondents highlighted specific groups of people who should be considered, for example, younger people and those most likely to be impacted by policies.

A few argued that people should be seen as part of, and interdependent with, nature and the environment, rather than presented as more important – for example, changing the principle to 'Putting the Climate and People First'. Singular comments included calls for: the impact on people outside of Scotland to be noted; people to be shown what changes they need to make; to link climate change to all aspects of people's lives; and to make it clear what net zero and adaptation mean to people in practice.

Respondents suggested the following wording changes:

  • That 'Active involvement' or 'Collaborative decisions' might better reflect the principle's aim of public engagement, or change it to 'People-led'.
  • Changing to "Our approach will be based on partnership between government and the public and will encourage actively the development of leadership on responses to climate change from individuals, communities, civil society, local authorities and business as well as from all levels of local and national government".
  • Rewording to "A net zero nation is not possible without the support and contribution of our citizens, organisations and businesses. None of us are bystanders in the transition but integral players in making it a success".


Views on this principle were mixed. Some gave positive comments noting the importance of dialogue in increasing engagement, but it was also described as vague and passive.

The most common change to Dialogue was to note the importance of listening. Comments stressed that dialogue needs to be a two-way conversation rather than one-way communication and should be an ongoing process. This would demonstrate that people's views, concerns, knowledge, experience and ideas are being listened to and acted upon. Three respondents specifically called for education to support people with the knowledge to have conversations. Other changes mentioned by one or two respondents included: the need to link dialogue to action to avoid 'talking shops'; acknowledging the role of the media; making sure the terms used in the principle are accessible and widely understood; encouraging collaboration; emphasising dialogue with young people; and a call for clarity over what form the dialogue will take.

Proposed wording changes included:

  • Using 'Discussion' or 'Let's talk about it' instead of Dialogue.
  • To frame the principle around 'collaboration and shared purpose'.
  • Changing "all of society" to "all of society in all of their personal, community and corporate capacities" to highlight the need for conversation beyond individuals, e.g. with businesses.
  • Changing "conversations" to "conversations and interactions" and adding "Within these conversations and interactions all contributions will be respected and carry equal weight".


Most frequent in relation to the Just principle were supportive comments and in particular welcoming the commitment to a just transition and a climate justice approach. More positive comments were received about this principle than the other six. Also prevalent were comments about different audiences. Most common were calls to consider the needs and challenges of marginalised communities or vulnerable groups, and ensuring they are not left worse off because of Government policy or from taking action. A small number suggested prioritising engagement with these groups.

A few respondents noted their desire to see the needs of specific demographic groups referenced, e.g. young people and students, older people, people with disabilities or health conditions, and island communities, as well as those not currently engaged. UNISON called for reference to engaging workers in their workplaces to be included. Participants in the equality workshop also noted that there was no mention of marginalised communities in the strategy, and no commitment to tackling poverty or inequality more widely.

The most common change suggested was to elaborate on how a just transition approach would be delivered. Respondents called for decentralisation and bottom-up decision making and more information on how people in deprived areas or isolated communities will be reached. Two commented that a just transition approach will only be delivered if there is an open debate on taxation and that some will pay more than others. A small number of respondents provided negative feedback or made more general comments.

Respondents suggested the following wording changes:

  • That 'Fair' might be more appropriate than 'Just'. Climate Outreach provided a detailed response citing research that the term 'climate justice' is politically divisive.
  • Amending "actively engage with these groups" to "actively supporting them through the transition".
  • Changing the principle to 'Just & Equitable'.
  • There was also a feeling that 'Just' could be more clearly defined.


Beyond some expressions of support for the Inclusive principle, the most prevalent theme was engagement delivery. Respondents reiterated the need for tailored and flexible approaches to reach and engage varied demographic and geographic audiences. Accommodating the needs of different groups in this way was seen as vital to ensuring inclusivity. For example, one respondent gave a personal example of feeling excluded from Climate Conversations as they were scheduled during the working day. Similarly, those in the equality workshop questioned how to include those who would need childcare or carers of older or disabled people who might struggle to attend.

A few noted that the public has differing levels of understanding of climate change. This needs to be considered in the design and facilitation of engagement and in accessible, understandable materials. One called for a detailed plan on how this would be achieved.

Approaches to delivery were also suggested. There was overlap here with the Just principle, with respondents noting the importance of grassroots and community organisations, colleges, residents' / tenants' associations and nurseries to reach a broad spectrum of people. These included the specific demographic groups mentioned above, those not currently engaged in climate issues and those most likely to be impacted.

Only a small number of changes to the principle were suggested. One noted that Inclusive should also include consultation with businesses and NGOs. Climate Outreach suggested that the principle should recognise the ambitious and proactive approach that will be required:

"This is another important and progressive principle. Building on current thinking around inclusivity and diversity in other domains (such as race and gender) it is clear that an ambition to be inclusive and making information 'accessible' are not, of themselves, sufficient to ensure inclusivity. Climate Outreach would recommend that this principle explicitly recognises that inclusion requires approaches that are ambitious, proactive, and evaluated. For example, the strategy might state as a principle that every person, from every walk of life, has a right to understand the causes and impacts of climate change and how will affect their lives, and that the government has the objective of ensuring that all people are provided with sufficient information and understanding to make well-informed decisions." – Climate Outreach

Other specific wording changes were to:

  • Include an explicit commitment to seldom heard voices actively shaping policy.
  • Amend the wording to: "…and give them an equal say in their future and equal opportunities to act."
  • Change the principle to 'Inclusive and Diverse' and change the text to "Our engagement approach will therefore be inclusive and accessible across age, gender identity, geography, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, marital and family status, health status, economic and social situation".


Comments in support of the Evidence-based principle were prevalent. Respondents welcomed its inclusion, noting its importance and that it would help promote clarity, foster openness and dispel myths around climate change. A few organisations noted how they support evidence gathering and communication in their own work.

Some respondents also suggested changes and additions to the principle. These varied, with most mentioned by small numbers. A few gave examples of what type of evidence should be gathered, e.g. about novel initiatives and innovations to reduce the impact of climate change, for example sustainable respiratory healthcare products. There were also calls for standardised methods to be used, especially concerning carbon metrics, to avoid confusion and create confidence in reporting.

A small number discussed who should provide evidence. This included: a call for experts to be involved from the start of any process; an interdisciplinary range of experts to be consulted; the importance of having a range of non-biased evidence; and calls for evidence to be drawn from people with lived experience and from communities. Respondents also suggested that an evidence-based approach should incorporate honesty and balance, and for evidence to be presented in an accessible, age-appropriate, jargon-free way using non-written communication such as videos and podcasts. The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland called on the Scottish Government to observe a structured Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) process.

Two respondents called for 'Evidence-Based' to be changed to 'Effective', and one to 'Science-Based'. Energy Saving Trust called for the wording to make it explicit that the Scottish Government will use the most recent evidence to inform its approach. Nourish Scotland suggested that the principle should recognise people with lived experience as experts.

Open & Transparent

The most common theme in relation to the final principle was the need to be truthful; one called for a new principle of honesty. Respondents called on the Scottish Government to be honest about the hard choices which will need to be made and the impact of climate change. There were also calls for honesty around whether carbon and emission targets have been met and about the extent to which emissions have been exported or offshored to other countries by importing goods.

A small number highlighted the importance of an Open and Transparent principle in building trust and confidence in the public and encouraging them to buy into policies. Beyond this, singular comments included: a suggestion that the principle should highlight transparency over lobbying; the importance of a consistent, joined-up policy approach to build trust and credibility in the Government's approach; the need for secure two-way dialogue; consistency over global reporting; calls for the principle to include local government and public bodies' actions; and to the adoption of an Open Science approach.

Two specific additions to wording were suggested: that "…people can see and understand our actions and be empowered to hold the government to account" and "…people can see and understand our actions and the impacts these will have on their lives".

Other views on the principles

In addition to the above changes to each principle, respondents expressed other views on the principles more generally across question two.

The most common theme was to improve the language of the principles. There were two main strands within this. A small number felt the principles would benefit from more explanation or being more concise or clearly defined. They described the principles as vague, generic, abstract, general, unspecific, insubstantial and too wordy and full of political jargon. Secondly, a few called for stronger, more direct and ambitious language to be used. Beyond this, specific singular comments were made advising against the use of 'green' and noting concern over the use of 'adaptation'.

Another theme was a call to include examples of the principles in practice. Respondents felt giving people details of the required actions and how to take them would help them understand how change might impact their lives. Giving examples of how different stakeholders or audiences would be engaged was also suggested.

Other themes mentioned by small numbers of respondents included:

  • Calls for the principles to have a greater sense of urgency and reflect the seriousness of the situation and the severity of the challenges being faced.
  • Suggestions for changing the order of the principles: one felt the last three should be first in the list; two called for Evidence-based to be more prominent; and one suggested Putting People First and Dialogue could be combined.
  • Calls for greater reference to getting people talking across all their roles, e.g. in their communities, in their family and in a work capacity as professionals, trade workers, volunteers, carers, in shops or as students.
  • Singular comments included a question around whether there were too many principles, requests for more detail about how the principles will be embedded in the strategy and align with broader Government policy; and a call to align the principles to the National Standards of Community Engagement.

Question 2c: Missing information and additional principles

In addition to the general views expressed above, some respondents noted elements they felt were missing from the principles that should be expanded on or included.

The most common were calls for more discussion or detail on how the principles would be applied locally. Respondents called for information about how communities' voices will be heard, and how communities will be trained, supported and resourced to drive change. A small number called more broadly for the principles to ensure different parts of society work together. One made the specific point that the strategy "could be more positive about the importance of trusted messengers, rather than framing this through the negative default position of 'government might not be the most suitable'."

The other points raised by one or two respondents varied considerably. Two called for the principles to include engagement with businesses and another two for a reference to the principles underpinning the Scottish Government's existing ISM Tool[10] for achieving change. Singular calls included mentioning: a Diffusion of Innovation perspective; The Aarhus Convention; and noting the link between land users and climate change.

Some respondents suggested new principles to be added. However, there was no commonality in these with most mentioned by very small numbers. Most common was a principle for local, community-led or place-based engagement. Additional principles raised by three or more respondents included relevant, participation, deliberation, trust and immediacy or timely. Partnership and collaboration with professional bodies and other organisations was also mentioned by respondents and in the equality workshop.

Suggestions made by one or two respondents included principles for: action; subsidiarity; purposeful; devolution to local authorities; working with nature; empowerment; outreach; enhanced wellbeing; proportionality; talking about future prospects and opportunities; focused; effective; consistent; honest; and recognising peoples' identities and values. One suggested specific wording: "Our approach will welcome challenge on policies and approaches for adapting to and mitigating climate change as an essential part of driving an effective response".

A few respondents made points that did not directly relate to the principles.

Question 3: Other comments on the approach

Q3a. Do you have any other comments on our overall approach?

Question 3a asked respondents for any other comments on the Scottish Government's overall approach to public engagement on climate change.

Just over half of respondents (93/178) provided an answer. Given the open nature of this question, responses were varied. Some used the opportunity to express general support for the objectives and plans in the strategy. However, the vast majority of comments in response to question three aligned with themes already covered in the analysis of questions one and two above.

For this reason, the full analysis of question three is in Appendix A. In summary:

  • Themes consistent with questions one and two included calls for focused engagement with specific demographic groups and disengaged audiences, and the need for clear, effective and urgent messaging. Less frequently mentioned themes included the need for climate education and calls for greater collaboration.
  • A few respondents suggested learning lessons from the effectiveness of government communication and public engagement throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They noted that the crisis is good example of engaging the population, and that the climate emergency should be treated in the same way.
  • While they appreciated the approach of encouraging people to make changes that will help combat climate change, a few noted the success of the strategy will depend on the ability of those in power to facilitate these changes.

A small number of respondents used this question to make comments about the consultation process, articulating that the consultation should have been more promoted more widely and more accessible. Respondents pointed to the lengthy consultation document and technical jargon used throughout as barriers for a public audience. This was also raised in the equality workshop with participants noting that some of the content is not plain English and uses technical language making it inaccessible to those without functional literacy and English as a second language. They also called for British Sign Language video information and compatibility with screen readers.



Back to top