Open Government Partnership Steering Group minutes: December 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Mr Adam, Minister for Parliamentary Business
  • Juliet Swann, Chair of Civil Society Network (Chair)


  • Councillor Steven Heddle, Vice-President
  • Katelin O'Neill, Policy Assistant
  • Garrick Smyth, Policy Manager 

Civil Society

  • Annie Cook, Democratic Society (apologies)
  • Jack Lord, Open Data Services Co-operative (apologies)
  • Lucy McTernan, OGP Civil Society Steering Committee
  • Susan Paxton, SCDC
  • Alex Stobart, MyDex CIC (apologies)


  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes (apologies, Niall Davidson, Change and Stakeholder Engagement Lead deputising)
  • Andy Bruce, Director of Communications and Ministerial Support (apologies)
  • Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government (Amy Watson, Principal Research Officer deputising)
  • Geoff Huggins, Director Digital (Shona Nicol, Team Leader – Data Standards deputising)
  • Catriona Laing, Deputy Director for Domestic Climate Change (apologies, Matt Grady, Head of Behaviours and Engagement deputising)
  • Mary McAllan, Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (apologies Calum Irving, Deputy Director Strategic Third Sector and Public Service Leader Deputising)
  • Richard McCallum, Director of Health and Social Care Finance, Digital & Governance (apologies, Rachel Dowle, Head of Strategic Design deputising)


  • David Hamilton, Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Martin Macfie, Head of Open Data, Scottish Government
  • Louise Meikleham, Senior data policy officer, Scottish Government
  • Pamela Rennie, Strategic Policy and Planning, Chief Executive’s Department, Glasgow City Council
  • Zena Trendell, member of Scotland’s Civil Society Network
  • Ellen Wright, Deputy Private Secretary to Minister for Parliamentary Business

Steering Group Secretariat

  • Neisha Kirk, Open Government participation policy officer

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Juliet Swann welcomed members and observers to the meeting. Apologies were noted and taken as read.

New observers to the meeting were provided with a short overview of Scotland’s Open Government Steering Group and its function.

Juliet provided an introduction to her background and outlined her priorities as co-chair for the group going forward. She emphasised the importance of the members of the strategic group working together to lead the development of Scotland’s fourth open government action plan. Setting the direction of this would involve building on the foundations of the group’s work up until now and planning for active public engagement, as well as leading by example with a strong approach to transparency, ethics and integrity in the commitments within the next national plan. These efforts would support in addressing issues of declining levels of public trust in democracy, and increasing levels of political inequality.

Action plan commitment progress update – revised milestones and exception reporting

Mr Adam opened the discussion by welcoming Juliet to her new role as co- chair. He acknowledged that they had met recently to discuss ways of working, and had shared priorities and ambitions for open government in Scotland. Mr Adam agreed that government must improve upon its current levels of public trust, and recognised the work to date the group had undertaken to progress towards this goal.

He noted that he had been working closely with the Open Government team to advance plans to improve current systems in place and to progress the culture and behaviour change required to embed open government principles across government.

Mr Adam closed by highlighting that local government has often been seen to instigate change in attitudes and behaviours, and noted lessons should be learned from local government colleagues.

Each commitment representative acknowledged during the reporting process that progress updates were more limited in areas as the steering group had convened less than two months prior.

Fiscal transparency commitment

It was confirmed reporting updates for the commitment from October continued to apply in December 2023.

Niall Davidson and Lucy McTernan, government and civil society representatives for the commitment, noted that they had been involved in recent discussions to host a fiscal transparency themed event to showcase Scotland’s leadership in this area. However they acknowledged a more substantial update would be provided later during the meeting.

Health and social care commitment

Rachel Dowle, government representative for the commitment, updated that following this summer’s co-design work conducted by teams developing the National Care Service, some gaps were recognised as part of this process. It was confirmed teams have been facilitating more focused conversations with Third Sector stakeholders, and outputs from these discussions will be built into the resources and guidance being produced in health and social care.  

Susan Paxton, civil society representative, confirmed work had been underway on an outstanding milestone to review the membership of the civil society sub group. Members were made aware that the Third Sector Health and Social Care Collaborative formerly adopted the Open Government Partnerhsip (OGP) role going forward. It was noted civil society members would bring valuable insights to co-design work and understand the role of an open government civil society partner.

Susan noted that the civil society group would review milestones for the commitment in early 2024, and that the steering group can expect a more substantive report on the workings of the new civil society group at the next meeting following this process.

Data and digital commitment

Shona Nicol, government representative, confirmed milestones were still on schedule and that the commitment had achieved what had been outlined in the October update, including the launch of the website. The commitment had seen good feedback from the open data community on the updated website following a scraping exercise to make information more discoverable. Next steps were noted to involve gathering and testing comments received from users, monitoring how the website is being used, and the quality of the site and results.

Reporting also involved noting the outreach the commitment had undertaken, particularly during the DataFest summit in November. Speakers from government and civil society had presented during the event on how they are implementing the open data standards and open data innovations.

It was further confirmed that a new cohort on the data maturity programme had started in September and a fourth cohort will start in January 2024. It was estimated that 38 public sector organisations had completed the data maturity programme to date.

Following the work over summer 2023 with fractals co-op and Open Data Services Co-operative, it was noted that the team were awaiting the final report and recommendations and that these will support in defining milestones in 2024.

Jack Lord, civil society representative for the commitment, sent his apologies.

Climate change commitment

Matt Grady, government representative for the climate change commitment, updated that the public engagement team were developing reports to feedback to network members on how their participation has been used to date.

Following a period of staffing shortages, as reported at the previous meeting, it was confirmed recruitment had been underway and a new member of staff had been appointed to lead on the open government commitment.

Next steps were outlined to involve engaging with civil society to consider milestones for the next year to 18 months, with a focus on how to build the network.

Alex Stobart, civil society representative, was not present at the meeting.

Participation commitment

Amy Watson, government representative for the participation commitment, provided a brief update to members noting considerable progress had been made across a number of milestones. This involved highlighting the work progressed to establish guidance for paying participants, the recently launched public information notice for the Participation Framework Agreement, and the work to update Scottish Government’s participation guidance to ensure better coverage of equalities related advice – informed from findings from a series of public workshops undertaken earlier in the year.

Juliet Swann, civil society representative for the commitment, agreed with the update provided.

COSLA update

Councillor Heddle closed the discussion on commitment updates by reflecting on work taking place at a local government level, firstly noting the Verity House Agreement (VHA). He confirmed COSLA were committed to working with partners on the VHA and that participative democracy would be key to fulfilling this ambition. It was also reflected that COSLA would like to see this transformation delivered through the Open Government Partnership.

It was noted Participatory Budgeting (PB) continues to be an important mechanism to realise this vision and Councillor Heddle confirmed that local authorities are highly likely to again meet the 1% target.

Councillor Heddle also acknowledged successes, highlighting Renfrewshire Council’s achievement in winning the community engagement award at the Scottish Public Service Awards (SPSA).

However it was noted COSLA recognises that there is more to participative democracy than PB. Councillor Heddle drew attention to areas of development, including the expanded remit for the National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group (NPBSG), and the agreement between COSLA and Mr Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, to evaluate actions to undertake in light of the upcoming review of the Community Empowerment Act.

In terms of connecting with the fiscal transparency commitment – an action identified from the previous meeting it was confirmed colleagues in COSLA’s Finance team were close to identifying the most effective way through which they can ensure appropriate engagement. Those involved noted they would keep members informed on developments as a matter of priority.

Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) facilitated workshop 2024

To support in providing some context to a workshop, Lucy McTernan presented a brief overview of the Open Government Challenge. The purpose of this was to encourage members to consider the linkages to this initiative when framing milestones and when framing strategic discussions during the upcoming IRM facilitated workshop. Members were taken through a short presentation which outlined the background to the ten challenges the Open Government Partnership had set for its members. The Challenge, officially launched in September 2023, complements the strategic goals outlined in OGP’s 2023 to 2028 strategy.

Doreen Grove confirmed that this would be an opportunity for longer term thinking as the next action plan will run throughout the next parliament. It was confirmed the Open Government team will liaise with members to agree a suitable date, and that procurement for an Independent Reporter was underway. It was noted that elements from the workshop could be useful for local government representatives to inform open government ways of working.

Glasgow’s Open Government Action plan 2021 to 2023

Pamela Rennie from Glasgow City Council provided a brief update following the completion of the city’s first open government action plan 2021 to 2023. The presentation covered background to the creation of the commitments, commitment progress to 2023 and the co-creation timeline for Glasgow’s second action plan.

Niall and Lucy noted that certain national commitments had significant cross over with Glasgow – particularly on fiscal openness and transparency. It was agreed representatives should work together more closely where there are commitments in common, and to invite civil society representatives from Glasgow that would be interested to be involved at future steering group meetings.

Nordic + group Scotland event 2024

Lucy McTernan and Doreen Grove updated that Scotland ha been developing plans with the Open Government Partnership Support Unit to host the Nordic+ group in spring 2024.

The group, made of up Nordic and Baltic States, along with Germany, the Netherlands and Iceland, meet periodically to facilitate informal regional peer exchange and learning.

From preliminary planning meetings it was agreed that the focus of the two day event should be on fiscal transparency, as many Nordic+ group members share commitments related to this theme. The sessions will be geared towards building ambitions in this area and to learn from others with aligning commitments. The meeting will also support the motivation and uptake of the Open Government Fiscal Openness Challenge, which supports Goal 4 in the OGP strategy 2023 to 2028

It was noted that the event hopes to include expertise from the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), International Monetary Fund, CoST  and OECD, alongside government points of contact and civil society.

The discussion closed with confirmation that organisers involved will make sure members of the steering group will have an opportunity to meet with participants and partners involved during the event.

Any oclosing business (AOCB)

Open Government Steering group dates for 2024 have not been determined. The Open Government team will liaise with both co-chairs to scope dates for 2024 and share this information with members early next year.

Next steps

Any non-members wishing to attend a meeting as observers should contact the secretariat (


  • Scottish Government’s Open Government team to scope dates in February 2024 to hold a workshop facilitated by Scotland's IRM
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