Open Government Partnership Steering Group meeting minutes: September 2021

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

Attendees and apologies


  • George Adam, Minister for Parliamentary Business
  • Lucy McTernan, Chair of Civil Society Network
  • Councillor Graham Houston, Vice President, COSLA (apologies)

Civil Society

  • Alex Stobart, MyDex CIC
  • Dave Beck, University of Glasgow (apologies)
  • Angela Gracie, Third Sector Interface, East Ayrshire (apologies)
  • Annie Cook, DemSoc
  • Dawn-Anne McAneny, Scottish Leisure Network Group
  • Juliet Swann, Involve (apologies)
  • Don Giles, Leith Community Council (apologies)
  • Jack Lord, Open Data Services Co-operative


  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes
  • Lisa Bird, Deputy Director, Climate Change (Domestic) (apologies, Matt Grady Deputising)
  • Andy Bruce, Director Communications and Ministerial Support (apologies)
  • Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government
  • Geoff Huggins, Director of Digital
  • Albert King, Chief Data Officer
  • Audrey MacDougall, Chief Social Researcher (apologies)
  • Catriona Maclean, Deputy Director Public Service Reform (apologies)
  • Sean Neill, Director for Local Government and Communities (apologies)
  • Linda Pollock, Interim Director, Healthcare Quality and Improvement (apologies, Alex Dunn Deputising)

Steering group secretatiat

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


  • Niall Davidson, Change and Stakeholder Engagement Lead, Performance and Strategic Outcomes
  • Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Susan Paxton, SCDC, Open Government Network Coordinator

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Lucy McTernan welcomed members to the meeting, noting the Open Government Partnership’s 10th Anniversary and wishing it “Happy Birthday”.

Apologies were given, including from co-chair Councillor Houston.

Update from Scottish Government

George Adam, Minister for Parliamentary Business, echoed Lucy McTernan’s well-wishes for OGP’s 10th Anniversary, and acknowledged those who have been working on Open Government in Scotland since those early days.

The Minister expressed his thanks to everyone who has been involved in developing the Action Plan over the past several months, and noted that the themes within the plan align with and will support the priorities of the Government, expressed through the Programme for Government. He assured the group that though deadlines have had to shift over the course of this plan’s delivery, the Open Government Team have been in constant communication with the Open Government Partnership, who remain comfortable with the progress which has been made.

More broadly, Mr Adam expressed his belief that Scotland’s Open Government Partnership membership is a crucial mechanism to ensure that Scotland retains and develops the relationship between Government and Civil Society which we all want. He stressed that at times when politics becomes more polarised, this relationship becomes all the more important, especially in its ability to ensure Government is trustworthy and trusted.

Independent reporting mechanism

Lucy McTernan introduced this discussion, setting out the purpose of the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) and the current context in Scotland. She thanked Daren Fitzhenry and the members of the IRM working group for their work developing the Options Paper for the group.

At the previous meeting of this group, the group agreed to recommend that an independent reporter was commissioned to conduct Scotland’s reporting. Since that time, the OGP recommended that the group discuss this in greater detail, to ensure that the mechanism for commissioning, and subsequent accountability mechanisms surrounding the Independent Reporter have been agreed by the group as a whole.

Daren Fitzhenry acknowledged that where funding is involved, it’s very difficult to achieve true independence. He stressed that the focus should rather be on implementing appropriate checks and balances to secure functional independence. He therefore suggested that the group reaffirm their recommendation to appoint an independent reporter, but added that in the longer term, it might be appropriate to look to the committee system within Parliament to support with the Independent Reporting system.

Lucy suggested that a subgroup be established from this group, with additional members (including Daren Fitzhenry) as appropriate, perhaps including a member from the Parliamentary Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. The process of commissioning and managing an Independent Reporter would be managed by this group.

The Steering Group agreed to this proposal, and Doreen confirmed that there were funds set aside within Scottish Government to commission a reporter.

Action: Open Government Team to propose terms of reference and membership for this group (Steering Group members who wish to take part to let Madeleine know).

Update from Civil Society

The Civil Society network across the UK remains very active, involved in the UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland Action plans, and with a network beginning to form in Wales. There is a growing enthusiasm for engaging with Open Government across the UK, and Lucy stated she is keen for Open Government in Scotland to continue connecting up with colleagues across the UK where appropriate.

Update from COSLA

Due to connection issues, Simon Cameron was unable to give an update on COSLA’s Open Government involvement at this meeting.

National action plan timetable and commitment updates

Climate change

Alex Stobart, the Civil Society Lead for this commitment stated that he’d met with the Scottish Government leads on a number of occasions, with good progress being made. The commitment aims to build a stakeholder network which is more coherent, and which provides a platform which works better to engage across the different strands of climate work. The commitment team plans to engage further with Civil Society following COP26, but Alex stated that those colleagues who he has engaged with so far had been broadly supportive and feel that this is a valuable proposition.

Doreen added to this, acknowledging that more cocreation work would have been carried out for this commitment in an ideal world, but welcoming the flexibility which the 4 year plan provides to put a “marker” into the plan and develop more detailed milestones within a few months.

Lucy seconded this, sharing that a similar approach is being taken to the Climate commitment of the UK plan, as the plan shouldn’t pre-empt the outcomes from COP.

Health and social care

Alex Dunn shared that the working group for Health and Social Care have had two very positive meetings. She thanked Lucy for taking part in these, stating that her involvement had been invaluable for ensuring that the resulting commitment is action-oriented. The commitment will look at how Health and Social care can use person-centred design, with a focus on participation and bringing people into conversations at an early stage. Alex thanked the Civil Society members of the group for providing helpful challenge to ensure the commitment provides clear routes to remain accountable and identify whether the commitment is being met.

Susan Paxton added that the UK plan’s Health commitment is more focussed on health data, but that there may be synergies there which Scotland should pick up on.

Daren Fitzhenry raised the desire to extend FOI requirements across the board to Social Care functions as something which had been raised in multiple consultations, including with the Office of the Information Commissioner. He offered to provide further information if this could be of interest.

Financial transparency

Jennie Barugh introduced this commitment, stating that it build on the Financial Transparency commitments included in the previous two Open Government Action Plans. Insight from the Discovery which the team recently ran, the Citizens Assemblies, and the Social Renewal Advisory Board also informed the commitment’s development.

The commitment covers a range of themes, including making budget and financial activity more understandable and accessible, continuing to make procurement and contract data more transparent, and actions around tax, the infrastructure investment plan, and the review of National Outcomes.

Jack Lord added to this that some work in this strand includes assessing Scotland against international best practice, and developing good practice here around engagement and inclusion for financial information.


Albert King thanked Dawn-Anne McAneny and Jack Lord for their leadership and input to the Data commitment over recent months.

He stated that the commitment was developing well, and aligns with Scottish Government’s AI Strategy and Digital Strategy, as well as linking well with other commitments. Albert stressed that the team were keen to develop these links to ensure the commitment works well to support the whole Open Government plan.

The main strand within the commitment focusses on applying a methodical approach to look at specific areas of data, understanding use cases, landscape, user needs and more. This thematic approach will cover a range of themes throughout the lifetime of the plan, beginning with Climate and Environment. The team are keen to make use of this forum as a space to develop the commitment and identify further themes as the plan progresses.


Doreen introduced this commitment, stating that it builds on work in the previous Action Plans, and aims to act as an “enabling” commitment, supporting engagement in priority areas. A theme which emerged through all of the workshops in the cocreation process is that the pandemic has brought (in)equalities to the fore, and the uneven way in which the pandemic impacted communities. Many also mentioned the important role which communities and third sector organisations played in responding to the pandemic.

The core of this commitment is therefore around building the infrastructure and skills for Participation within Government, in part to fulfil Programme for Government and manifesto commitments around delivering a more participatory democracy. More broadly, the commitment looks at how support can be provided to build and maintain capacity to support engagement outside of Government.

Action plan strategic overview

Amy Watson introduced this topic, updating the group on the two Round Tables which were held to shape the strategic overview, and giving the group notice that Scottish Government would be looking for input on a draft Strategic Overview within a few weeks.

Steering group ways of working

Lucy introduced this discussion, asking the group how the implementation of commitments and actions should be supported, driven and monitored throughout delivery of the Action Plan. She suggested that there doesn’t need to be a one size fits all solution across all commitments, but that there must be a common understanding on how all commitments will connect back to the IRM and the Steering Group.

The discussion which followed identified the following features as important:

  • regular updates for the IRM
  • working Groups (in some form) for each commitment
  • additional meetings (regularity unspecified) to look at the wider, more strategic elements of Open Government
  • continuing to build the civil society network – including need to have discussion about how civil society is funded
  • need to think around how Civil Society can input into Parliamentary Committee oversight of Open Government
  • updating Steering Group Governance to reflect these changes

Action: Scottish Government to convene meeting between Involve, SCDC, and Civil Society and Government Leads for Open Government across the UK.

Next steps

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

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