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.

4. Enabling participation in policy design

This chapter presents the analysis of responses to questions seven and eight, which address the second strategic theme of enabling participation in policy design.

Key Findings:

  • Around two fifths of respondents were supportive of the proposed approach to enabling participation in policy design.
  • The next most common theme was positive feedback on the Climate Assembly and use of deliberative approaches. There were calls for the strategy to clarify how the Scottish Government will publicise, learn from, commit to and act on the Climate Assembly’s recommendations.
  • Calls for inclusivity were also prevalent. Respondents outlined how the Scottish Government should overcome barriers to engagement and ensure those most likely to be affected by climate change are encouraged to participate.
  • The inclusion of youth participation in the draft strategy was welcomed. Comments encouraged the Scottish Government to ensure children and young people are supported to participate and suggested this could be done through education and the youth work sector.

Q7. What are your views on our approach to enabling participation in policy design?

Four fifths of respondents (139/178) answered question seven.

Endorsement and positive feedback on the approach.

Most prevalent across responses to question seven was positive feedback on the approach outlined in the draft strategy, given by two fifths of respondents. Many provided comments which explicitly endorsed all or elements of the approach. Respondents expressed their agreement, welcomed the steps being taken or described it as the right or appropriate approach. Some highlighted specific reasons for their support, particularly encouraging youth participation and the inclusion of citizen's assemblies. Some respondents provided positive feedback without directly endorsing the approach, with most commenting that it is good.

Climate Assembly and deliberative processes

The role of the Climate Assembly was the second most prevalent theme; some respondents referred to this as the Citizen's Assembly or discussed Climate Conversations more broadly. Some respondents provided general positive feedback on the Climate Assembly and the potential for deliberative approaches to decision making. A few welcomed the Youth Assembly running alongside the main Assembly.

Another theme was calls for the strategy to clarify how the Scottish Government will publicise, learn from, commit to and act on the recommendations of the Climate Assembly. A few suggested members of the Assembly could be empowered to become Ambassadors who take the findings back to their communities. Other comments included holding local assemblies alongside the national Assembly and ensuring participants in conversations are representative of Scotland's demographics and geography and are supported and compensated for taking part.

"The Scottish Climate Assembly is an amazing thing to have and we're glad the Scottish Government is taking this on, however, the part saying that the Scottish Government will respond to the findings of the assembly within six months is not acceptable. The climate crisis needs to be addressed as soon as possible, so if the Scottish government can respond earlier to the findings, it will be more substantial. The rest of this point seems to be great however it needs to be acted and taken seriously, not just written down for this consultation. Especially when it comes to involvement with communities most affected and interaction with youth." – Teach the Future Scotland

Ensuring inclusivity

Several respondents explored the need to ensure participation is inclusive, with three strands evident within this discussion. Firstly, the need to ensure barriers to engagement are overcome, e.g. language, disabilities, time constraints, lack of digital access etc. Another theme was calls for the Scottish Government to ensure those most likely to be affected by climate change are encouraged to participate, for example, those living in fuel poverty. Participants in the equality workshop noted the need for those facilitating deliberative approaches to engage directly with equality organisations representing specific groups.

The third theme was the need to seek out the views of groups who do not typically engage, rather than the debate being influenced solely by those who feel most strongly. A few respondents noted this is a challenge that needs to be addressed by the Participation Framework[11]. Others highlighted the need for alternative engagement routes to these audiences, such as community groups or creative organisations.

A related theme was the need for participation to seek the views of all parts of society, or to ensure a variety of groups are engaged. Most comments within this made general calls for wide-ranging participation across demographics and geography. A few responses highlighted specific groups whose views should be considered, e.g. college students, older people, faith groups, and rural and island communities.

Participation of children and young people[12]

Encouraging youth participation was another common theme. As noted above, some responses welcomed and supported the inclusion of youth participation in the draft strategy, and the Climate Assembly's youth engagement project. A variety of other comments were received, with the most common being: the importance of supporting children and young people to participate as is their right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; encouraging youth participation through schools alongside greater focus on climate change in the curriculum; and using youth workers and stakeholders with youth programmes to reach young people[13].

Engaging communities and local decision making

Several respondents commented on the importance of engaging communities and local decision making, sharing a range of perspectives on this issue. Some highlighted the importance of engaging communities to find solutions or make changes for their area. A few noted the need to ensure local communities have the knowledge, capacity and resources to engage.

A small number called for the use of 'place plans' and 'place principle' have meaning in Scotland's planning system, with local place plans being the foundation of regional and national planning. Other suggestions included focus groups within communities, community consultation and increased use of participatory budgeting in local authorities.

Negative feedback

Though there was broad support for the approach outlined in the draft strategy, some respondents provided negative comments. A number highlighted uncertainty over the details of the approach. A few called for more emphasis on taking action, rather than having further discussions. Specific points included questions around whether the Scottish Government has the tools to facilitate the participation, and whether the methods of participation being outlined would be sufficient to increase the public's understanding.

Comments on wording were shared. One highlighted confusion as 'engagement' and 'communication' were interchanged in the strategy. Another stated the term 'co-designing' was misleading as the methods of participation outlined were all forms of 'consultation'.

Knowledge exchange

Respondents identified a need for greater knowledge exchange between professionals and the public. Most of the comments in this strand of discussion called for input from scientists and climate change experts to be included in policy making considerations or in conversations with the public. Less common were calls for education and training designed by experts, or learning from the work of public bodies and the third sector who are experienced in public engagement.

Government responsibility and accountability

Some respondents called for the Scottish Government to take more action on the outcomes of public engagement activities, e.g. consultations or the Climate Assembly. Respondents called for a more explicit commitment that the Government will act on the findings of the Climate Assembly. A small number called on the Scottish Government to adequately fund climate change policy and participatory activities.

Other themes

The need for an open and honest process was mentioned by a few respondents. Within this were comments supporting the desire for transparency, on the need for greater awareness of the influence of lobbyists and vested interests, and that the intention to have wide participation across all groups should not be tokenistic.

Collaboration was a less frequently mentioned theme. A few organisations noted they would welcome greater engagement with the Scottish Government or could offer expertise. These included Solar Energy Scotland, NFU Scotland, and Chiesi. Others suggested sectors or organisations whose input could be valuable, e.g. social housing, car manufacturers, energy companies or the Scottish Food Coalition.

Timescales were mentioned by a small number. A few similar responses asked the Scottish Government to give stakeholders sufficient time to respond to policy proposals. Others noted that findings from activities should be implemented quickly.

"In order to facilitate and encourage stakeholder participation in policy design, stakeholders should be granted adequate time to provide feedback on government proposals, updates or new legislative initiatives. Whilst we appreciate Government is moving at a fast pace as demanded by the climate emergency, timely consultation with engaged stakeholders can help inform and shape policy, prevent missed opportunities and ensure robust policy development." – Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

A few respondents highlighted other themes including: greater publicity around participatory opportunities and their findings, including greater use of social media; use of digital platforms and tools for participation; and more or enhanced public consultations.

Q8. Are you aware of any practical examples or case studies of good practice for enabling participation in decision-making that could be useful for informing our approach?

Three fifths of consultation respondents answered question eight (108/178). As with question six, these responses included detailed suggestions, examples without context, and general comments.

A full analysis of question eight is in Appendix B. The most common set of examples in response to question eight was Citizen Assemblies and other deliberative approaches such as citizen panels and juries. Most cited these as a positive form of public engagement. In addition to mentions of local citizen's assemblies, some respondents provided examples of engagement with communities and local groups.

Examples of encouraging youth participation was another prevalent theme. Respondents also gave several varied examples of ways in which participation could be adapted, tailored or strengthened. Several respondents cited the work of other people or organisations. A few other themes were also mentioned less frequently, and a small number gave examples of reference material such as books, reports or websites with little or no elaboration on their content.



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