Open Government Partnership Steering Group meeting minutes: February 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 23 February 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Graeme Dey (Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans) (Apologies)
  • Elric Honoré – Chair of Civil Society Network
  • Councillor Graham Houston – Vice President, COSLA (Apologies)

Civil Society

  • Graham Meikle - University of Westminster (Apologies)
  • Alex Stobart – Director Scotland, Mydex CIC (Apologies)
  • Shaben Begum – Director, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (Apologies)
  • Kelly McBride – Director of The Democratic Society in Scotland
  • Lucy McTernan – Independent Expert
  • Ian Watt – CodeTheCity


  • Doreen Grove – Head of Open Government (Facilitator)
  • Jennie Barugh – Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes
  • Julie Humphreys – Interim Director Communications, Ministerial Support & Workplace (Apologies)
  • Audrey MacDougall - Chief Social Researcher (Apologies)
  • Colin Cook – Director of Digital
  • Albert King – Chief Data Officer
  • Director for Local Government and Communities (Apologies)
  • Catriona Maclean - Deputy Director Public Service Reform (Apologies)

Steering Group Secretariat

  • Madeleine Fleming – Open Government, Scottish Government
  • Simon Cameron – Corporate Policy Manager, COSLA


  • Daren Fitzhenry - Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Saskia Kearns – Commitment 4 Lead, Scottish Government
  • Pamela Rennie, Policy and Governance Officer, Glasgow City Council
  • Hannah Dickson, Scottish Community Safety Network

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Doreen Grove welcomed members to the meeting, and members introduced themselves, stating their interest and involvement in Open Government. Doreen listed the apologies including from Mr Dey, who was prevented from attending by pressing parliamentary business.

Partner updates

Civil Society

Elric Honoré, head of the Civil Society Network, gave an update for the Network. Elections will be held during March for the Civil Society members of the steering group, and Elric will step down as chair. He will make some recommendations as exiting chair, and at this meeting extended his thanks to all of the civil society members for their work over the last year.


Simon Cameron passed on Councillor Graham Houston’s apologies for being unable to attend the meeting, and provided an update on COSLA’s position with regards to Open Government. Acknowledging the sea-change in ways of working, particularly working with communities, which has taken place over the past year, he expressed his hope that the next plan might contain some concrete actions for local government, taking advantage of Open Government’s capacity to bring together all levels of Government around big issues.

Scottish Government

Doreen Grove updated the group on behalf of the Scottish Government, starting by thanking all involved in the delivery of Scotland’s 2nd OGP Action Plan as we come to an end of it; and thanking the members of Open Government Network who provided helpful challenge and reminders throughout the plan and who continued to do so during the Covid response. It proved very helpful as the response to the pandemic unfolded. Throughout the pandemic it was also clear that Open Government principles are now also feeding directly into how SG responded and how we are now looking at Renewal, the reform programme and high level strategies around digital and data.

International Open Government Partnership

Lucy McTernan updated the group on the on-boarding of new “local” members, which is progressing well – the next phase to be undertaken will be around building a civil society cohort across these regions. Over 100 local action plans will be co-created this year, including Scotland’s, a huge moment for the Open Government Partnership. Lucy also informed the group of the outcome of the IRM’s report on the UK’s current action plan, which has found that the government acted contrary to process, resulting in the UK being placed “under review”. Finally, Lucy drew the group’s attention to a number of international events taking place this year which are relevant to this programme: Open Government week, the G7 meeting in the UK, COP26, and the Democracy 10 conference being convened by the US President.

Commitment updates

Commitment leads provided a short summary of progress on their commitment as the plan draws to a close, in addition to the written updates provided to the group. Key points are recorded below.

Commitment 1 – Jennie Barugh and Lucy McTernan

  • all commitments detailed in the action plan are now complete, with the exception of the development of a tax communications and engagement strategy which has been delayed by Covid redeployment
  • most energy is now focussed on looking forward to the next plan. This has included initiating a discovery project with digital colleagues, to look at how we can improve the accessibility of our financial data
  • there is a lot of work to do, but also momentum to make it happen

Commitment 2 – Doreen Grove and Kelly McBride

  • this commitment has succeeded in delivering some significant changes, despite some actions being slow to deliver, largely because of necessary reprioritisation
  • the text of the Participation Framework is now complete. Focus will now move to ensuring that it is in a useful format for people to use, so that it can be embedded into our ways of working. The working group for the framework will also be reconvened
  • the Open Government team have also fed into participation around Covid, which has been very helpful to crystallising thinking around participation in Government more broadly
  • there has been a notable increase in interest in participation within Civil Society during the pandemic in government overall

Commitment 3 – Colin Cook, Albert King and Ian Watt

  • good progress has been made on this commitment, and thinking has turned to the next steps in this area. Important to this is seeing Open Data not as an end in itself, but something which supports transparency and communities. This requires the creation of tools to allow communities to make use of the data
  • the way that government and civil society have worked together through the Covid response has provided lots of lessons to take forward
  • civil society colleagues in this area are already having lots of conversations with a broad range of people around where this commitment could go – it’s an exciting opportunity
  • this commitment ties closely to the open government theme which has been established in the Digital Strategy

Commitment 4 – Saskia Kearns

  • commitment 4 will present a report to the steering group with recommendations for the future of this workstream, before the end of the financial year
  • a large amount of time has been spent carrying out public engagement with the public to understand barriers to accountability. Citizens Advice Scotland are developing a pilot sign posting resource which they’ll host online – this should launch before the end of March
  • some brief engagement has also taken place with Education Scotland to feed in the expertise of commitment partners to education materials for teachers around accountability in Scotland

Commitment 5

  • there was no verbal update on commitment 5 at this meeting

Independent reporting mechanism

Earlier this year this Steering Group commissioned a working group to meet and report on the options to replace the current system of independent reporting, a change required by OGP for all Local members. The commission recognised both the importance for us of understanding our progress, but also acknowledged that one of the core requirements of being a member of OGP is to ensure progress is tracked and reported independently.

With this requirement as a base line, the working group, led by Daren Fitzhenry, delivered their report to the meeting on the options for independent reporting in Scotland and presented it for discussion. The working group recommended, that Scotland adopts an “IRM-plus” approach. This means, working from the basis of the tools for IRM to be provided by OGP and adapting it to our local context, in particular to respond to our focus to the longer-term outcomes and strategic impact. The working group also recommend that if a suitable candidate and resources could be found that a pilot is undertaken, testing how citizen participation can be incorporated into the reporting mechanism process. The working group were not in a position to cost the options until the OGP deliver their IRM toolkit and the level of time commitment for the reporter is clear. The discussion acknowledged that the final decision on the options will be dependent on identifying resources.

The steering group responded positively to these recommendations, including the potential to test citizen participation in this area, and agreeing that “IRM plus” would provide the most helpful level of scrutiny. Members also emphasised the importance of retaining a realistic understanding of resourcing.

The group agreed to recommend “IRM plus”, with a pilot citizen participation element fi resources can be identified.

Action plan co-creation

Doreen Grove introduced this discussion, and Madeleine Fleming reminded the group of the requirements of the co-creation process set by the Open Government Partnership. Kelly McBride highlighted that there has been a mass of input of public opinion recently, from a variety of areas such as Scotland’s Citizens Assembly, the Social Renewal Advisory Board, and the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls. She suggested that it would be helpful to build on these inputs rather than reaching out to the public as if from no knowledge. The group agreed this was a sensible approach.

Further discussion included looking back at previous processes, and identifying areas which might be important to look at in the co-creation process, such as health and climate change.

Doreen repeated her offer to set up a workshop with Alessandro Bellatoni, head of the Open Government Unit at the OECD, with the potential to also include presentations from Finland and Canada both places where they are considering how best to take a strategic approach to open government. The Open Government team also agreed to draft a timetable for the co-creation process and share this with the group.

Next steps

The next meeting of the Open Government Steering Group will be arranged shortly. A workshop with OECD will be organised separately. Any non-members wishing to attend this meeting as observers should contact the secretariat (

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