Open Government Partnership Steering Group minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 24 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Mr Adam, Minister for Parliamentary Business (chair)
  • Lucy McTernan, Chair of Civil Society Network


  • Councillor Steven Heddle, Vice-President

Civil society

  • Annie Cook, Democratic Society (apologies)
  • Jack Lord, Open Data Services Co-operative (apologies)
  • Susan Paxton, SCDC
  • Alex Stobart, MyDex CIC (apologies)
  • Juliet Swann, Involve (apologies)


  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes
  • Andy Bruce, Director of Communications and Ministerial Support (apologies)
  • Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government
  • Geoff Huggins, Director Digital (apologies, Eilidh McLaughlin deputising)
  • Catriona Laing, Deputy Director for Domestic Climate Change
  • Mary McAllan, Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (apologies)
  • Jane O’Donnell, Deputy Director, Third Sector, Community Empowerment & Open Government Division (apologies)
  • Martin Macfie, Head of Open Data
  • Michael McLaughlan, Programme Manager
  • Linda Pollock, Interim Director, Healthcare Quality and Improvement (apologies, Joanna Swanson deputising)

Independent reporting mechanism

  • Andy McDevitt


  • Simon Cameron, Chief Officer - Employers' Team, COSLA
  • Niall Davidson, Change and Stakeholder Engagement Lead, Scottish Government
  • Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Sam Jordan, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Louise Meikleham, Senior data policy officer, Scottish Government
  • Shona Nicol, Team Leader, Data Standards, Scottish Government
  • Pamela Rennie, Strategic Policy and Planning, Chief Executive’s Department, Glasgow City Council (apologies)

Steering group secretariat

  • Neisha Kirk, Open Government particpation policy officer, Open Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Minister welcomed members and new members to the meeting. It was noted the delivery of the action plan was nearing the end of its first year and the Minister commended work carried out to date.

Apologies were noted and taken as read.

Action plan commitment progress update – exception reporting

Doreen Grove updated that certain actions as part of the participation commitment have been held up by resource issues and as a result the team have had to be thoughtful about how to take these forward.

Lucy McTernan updated that a civil society committee meeting the previous week had been positive, and in general the committee were pleased at progress being made on the action plan. It was noted there is a gap in the feedback loop within civil society, and there is work ongoing to join up the civil society representatives in each commitment working group with the core group to ensure communications are across civil society networks. It was confirmed if government commitment leads and civil society representatives could consciously link these up it would be helpful.

Daren Fitzhenry reminded public bodies to consider if information included in progress updates may need to be updated to meet statutory requirements before publishing.

Catriona Laing updated a significant amount of preparatory work has taken place to setup the climate change network and was pleased to confirm the team are on track to launch the network soon.

Simon Cameron provided an update around Participatory Budgeting (PB), highlighting there is a broad range of activity and proactive consultation and engagement with communities taking place. It was confirmed local authorities are on track this year to meet the PB target within the action plan, reporting approximately £100 million pounds worth of local authority spend has been open to PB. It was noted 13 councils will report they will meet the target locally, and collectively will meet or exceed the target in place.

Doreen Grove closed by reminding all commitments to consider their next milestones. It was noted a number of commitments were made with the express view to be developed and enhanced to ensure there are clear actions.

Jennie Barugh confirmed fiscal transparency commitment leads and civil society leads met with their oversight group to discuss initial ideas for milestones for next year. It was noted to be a positive session and Andy McDevitt also joined the discussion to assist the development of milestones in his capacity as Scotland’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM). These are now due to be worked up across the group.

Independent Reporting Mechanism update

Andy McDevitt provided an overview of the IRM role and the inception assessment that is currently underway. It was explained an Independent Reporting Mechanism is a requirement of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) for any member. An IRM is an independent, external evaluator to monitor the implementation of the plan as it is delivered to ensure accountability.

The purpose of the IRM is to ensure all participants of the OGP are accountable to the wider OGP community and to their constituencies, and to facilitate learning and improvement throughout the action plan cycle. The IRM will look at how commitments can become more ambitious, impactful and collaborative throughout the process.

It was noted the initial role is to conduct an inception assessment of the action plan. The inception assessment will review three, broad areas:

  • compliance with minimum requirements of co-creation
  • the co-creation process (how inclusive and collaborative the process was, and the communication throughout the process)
  • the design of the commitments (reviewing the verifiability, or how clear the outputs and outcomes of the commitments are, how relevant they are to the values of OGP, and the potential for results)

Over the course of December, Mr McDevitt confirmed he will review documents and carry out conversations with government officials and civil society representatives involved in the co-creation process.

It was highlighted the assessment does not look at implementation or the results of the action plan. The assessment of the implementation of the commitments will take place at a later date.

Deep dive – Fiscal Transparency programme

Jennie Barugh provided a short introduction to the programme and provided context for attendees, highlighting the discovery report which was carried out to inform the programme. The report helped the team to understand key issues and how to tackle the challenge. It also demonstrated the benefits to solving financial transparency issues, and the wider benefits this could have, such as providing stronger analysis on how government should spend money and an improved credit rating. Problems the public faces when attempting to access government financial information were noted, namely how government raises and spends its money, and how to follow budgets from spend to outcomes. The report also included international examples and the team have been incorporating aspects of these experiences into their current thinking.

Michael McLaughlan, the programme manager, took the group through the journey to reach an alpha version of the programme, outlining the agile, iterative methodology that was adopted, the market testing which took place involving specialist data management companies, the development of the draft business case, how infrastructure investment was chosen as the pilot area within government and reasoning behind requirements to determine a provider. The work has involved the team building capacity, capability and governance for the programme, and creating a programme of deliverable work that meets needs, provides quality at an affordable price and meets stakeholder timelines.

Next steps were outlined to focus on the alpha phase with provider Urban Tide. This phase focuses on testing solutions to problems and they intend to build a prototype that will test different ideas and innovative approaches.

Some outcomes and deliverables for the programme, informed by the discovery report, are:

  • providing by January a prototype that is comprehensive, accurate and if possible linked and using up to date data
  • making existing information more accessible and understandable
  • having open, fiscal data that people can easily re-use
  • presenting accessible, usable and understandable fiscal information to the agreed community within the scope of the alpha
  • for the delivery team to have greatly improved understanding of the work required to deliver full fiscal transparency and understanding of the technologies required to support the beta, and to surface any key design decisions going forward

Work at the moment is focusing on a detailed data review, prototype development, platform initiation and stakeholder engagement and service design. From a series of workshops a stakeholder engagement plan will be produced, and will capture journey mapping and user stories. Further engagement workshops will be carried out to inform product requirement for the beta development. The team are also developing a communication plan to further develop stakeholder engagement.

The objective is to deliver a full business case for beta, with associated costs and benefits, with the team estimating a 6 month programme of agile delivery from April to October 2023. The ambition is to develop a plan for all directorates, but it was flagged the programme would be competing with other transformation projects and as a result the programme may need to be scaled back to meet budgets.

Lucy McTernan, the civil society lead for the commitment, commended the work that has taken place to date, and was pleased commitment leads had developed and enhanced thinking around the programme over the course of the three action plans. Lucy praised the co-implementation of the commitment and the involvement from civil society. Despite the technical design, the working group has provided guidance and governance. It was also emphasised the importance of the programme as fundamental to participation and transparency, and is an enabler to reform across other aspects of open government.

Eilidh McLaughlin questioned if the initial plan involves ensuring anything produced digitally meets the Web Content Accessibility (WCA) standards, and how the team will ensure those who are not digitally active can still be involved in this good work.

Jennie Barugh confirmed the standards are within the team’s sights and is an important issue. However it was highlighted the technical aspects of the programme require to be secured first to then better consider how communities can access the programme.

Michael McLaughlan agreed this was a wider challenge, and recognised the need to think about future digital accessibility solutions.

Eilidh McLaughlin suggested as part of the initial alpha phase to use data analytics to capture who regular participants are, who the team want to reach, what their connectivity is, and how their usage works. Understanding these analytics may help the team to understand who they want to target, and what they may need to design to support those they want to engage in the process. It was also mentioned teams across Scottish Government, including Ms McLaughlin’s team, are working on these aspects of digital inclusion and connecting with these teams and their work could help with programme delivery.

Lucy McTernan agreed and highlighted open government lends itself to this cross government working with teams to ensure good practice and innovative approaches are shared more widely.

COSLA reaffirmed the point to be mindful around digital, and questioned if a equality impact assessment and human rights assessment are going alongside this work.

Michael noted the team are subject to digital assurance reviews and Eilidh confirmed an equality impact assessment is required as part of Scottish Government’s public sector equality duty.

OGP regional meeting in Rome

Doreen Grove and Lucy McTernan provided a summary of the OGP regional meeting in Rome.

Doreen reminded attendees a major part of open government is about sharing learning, and the OGP regional meeting is a key opportunity for government members and civil society to come together to connect, exchange and learn. It was noted Scotland was represented at several events around democracy, climate action and innovation. Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights attended the meeting in the Minister’s absence due to conflicting engagements. It was confirmed the meeting will take place in Tallin, Estonia next year.

Lucy McTernan noted this was the first in person meeting since 2019, and a number of new local subnational members have joined the partnership. A key outcome of the meeting was a sense of moving the OGP from being a platform to a movement. Another key theme was the growing appreciation of civil society partners. It was highlighted during a strategic retreat for the global steering group that Scotland was often referenced for the important work it was delivering via the action plan, and for being an inspiration to other subnational members.

Doreen and Lucy both commended and noted Ukraine’s dedication to uphold its OGP commitments, its approach to integrity and openness, and resilience.

Any other and closing business

The Minister invited Councillor Heddle, Vice President for COSLA, to introduce himself to the group.

Councillor Heddle thanked the minister and noted it was important to reaffirm COSLA’s commitment to open government and the open government steering group. It was noted transparency is increasingly embedded in the work of local government and the direction of travel is enhanced transparency. Councillor Heddle also confirmed COSLA are committed to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and noted the acknowledgment of the drawbacks of digital, highlighting his constituency in Orkney as an area with limited super-fast broadband availability.

The Minister confirmed he was looking forward to working closely with COSLA to progress open government at a national and local level.

Doreen Grove raised next steps for 2023, noting the team will set up a workshop which will take an active look at the big elements of open government and around trust.

Lucy McTernan closed by provided an update on the UK OGP position. The Criteria and Standards subcommittee were due to issue a decision in October on the UK membership, however the committee took the decision to postpone an outcome. The Criteria and Standards subcommittee have requested an updated position from the UK Government and a further discussion will take place next month to decide an outcome.

Next steps

The next meeting of the Open Government Steering Group is provisionally due take place Wednesday 17th May 2023. Any non-members wishing to attend this meeting as observers should contact the secretariat (

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