Open Government Partnership Steering Group minutes: October 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies


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


  • Simon Cameron, Chief Officer - Employers' Team, COSLA
  • Councillor Steven Heddle, Vice-President, COSLA

Civil society

  • Annie Cook, Democratic Society (apologies)
  • Jack Lord, Open Data Services Co-operative
  • Susan Paxton, SCDC (apologies)
  • David Reilly, Poverty Alliance (apologies)
  • Alex Stobart, MyDex CIC
  • Juliet Swann, Transparency International UK


  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes
  • Andy Bruce, Director of Communications and Ministerial Support (apologies, Lorna Gibbs, Deputy Director, Improving Public Engagement Division, deputising)
  • Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government
  • Geoff Huggins, Director Digital (apologies, Shona Nicol, Team Leader, Data Standards, deputising)
  • Catriona Laing, Deputy Director for Domestic Climate Change (apologies, Jennifer Kane, Team Leader - Public Engagement, Domestic Climate Change, deputising)
  • Mary McAllan, Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (apologies)
  • Richard McCallum, Director of Health and Social Care Finance, Digital & Governance (apologies, Rachel Dowle, Head of Strategic Design, deputising)


  • Niall Davidson, Change and Stakeholder Engagement Lead, Scottish Government
  • David Hamilton, Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Sam Jordan, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Matthew Linden, Deputy Private Secretary to Minister for Parliamentary Business
  • Martin Macfie, Head of Open Data, Scottish Government
  • Louise Meikleham, Senior data policy officer, Scottish Government
  • Jen Swan, Digital Engagement Manager, Scottish Government

Steering Group Secretariat

  • Neisha Kirk, Open Government participation policy officer

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Minister was delayed by urgent business in the Scottish Parliament. Mr Adam was able join during the second half of the meeting. Doreen Grove facilitated the meeting until the Minister was able to attend.

Doreen Grove welcomed attendees to the meeting, passed on the Minister’s apologies, and outlined the agenda items and aims for the session.

Action plan commitment progress update – exception reporting

COSLA were invited to provide an update regarding local government progress on participatory budgeting (PB), and any wider work that has taken place to support the Open Government agenda.

Simon Cameron updated members that councils have received returns for the application of PB in 2022 and 2023, and that it appears highly likely that the target of 1% of local authority budgets allocated to PB will be reached. It was acknowledged that a range of common challenges and financial constraints make this more difficult to achieve, but local authorities were sharing learning in order to meet the agreed national target.

It was also noted that COSLA were generally supportive of proposals to expand the remit of the National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group to support the oversight of innovative democratic process in Scotland, but would need clarity on the governance and how those involved strengthen what is already in place.

Councillor Heddle, COSLA Vice President, further highlighted the development of a COSLA Special Interest Group. The group will look at a range of areas that play into Open Government, including the Verity House Agreement and Local Governance Review, and the work COSLA are conducting to advocate for the European Charter Law of Local-Self Government.

Fiscal transparency commitment

Government commitment leads updated that good progress has been made across the commitment’s three aims. Exception reporting included updating that commitment leads have moved into the second phase of development for the fiscal transparency portal. Phase two began in September 2023 and will run until January 2024. Following this, a minimal viable product will be created and will initially be for internal use only. The minimum viable product will look to effectively explain the entire Scottish Budget, including revenue and spend. A business case will be developed to outline resource implications to make the portal a public facing system. It is the intention of the commitment to ensure this becomes a publicly accessible system that shares information about the public finances.

Lucy McTernan, civil society representative for the fiscal transparency commitment, acknowledged that they had seen high engagement from civil society, resulting in this piece of work being carried out collaboratively. It was noted that there will be more work as civil society and government representatives begin to look outwards over the next two years.

Data and digital commitment

Shona Nicol, government representative for the data and digital commitment, confirmed they were making good progress across its six activities. Highlights included the data maturity programme and the data quality themed events Scottish Government had recently delivered. The commitment had seen the data maturity programme run two cohorts with 20 public sector staff. The programme helps cohort participants to develop a plan and ambition for open data, alongside a roadmap for how to achieve this. The Data quality themed events were each attended by 100 to 200 people. It was noted that Scottish Government staff would also be delivering sessions at the upcoming DataFest event around open data and data standards.

Finally, to support with communications around the commitment it was raised that a blog had been recently published outlining activity to date across data and digital milestones.

Lucy McTernan raised that UK Government are seeking to develop a commitment around open data as part of its next action plan, and suggested learning could be shared from Scottish Government commitment leads with UK Government staff.

Jack Lord, civil society representative for the data and digital commitment, confirmed his agreement with the update provided.  

Participation commitment

Juliet Swann, civil society representative for the participation commitment, noted good progress had been made to develop a participation procurement framework agreement, and to provide further support and guidance around the Participation Framework (PF).

Published earlier this year, the PF was developed to support public sector staff to improve participation and engagement with the public. It was noted that the team have been developing training to support staff to navigate the guidance and are being assisted by a civil society member on the subgroup who has experience in this area. The procurement framework agreement under development is seeking to ensure a set of pre-approved suppliers that can deliver high quality participation are available to staff looking to procure or commission participation activity. The framework agreement follows, and aligns with, the recently developed Children and Young People Participation Framework Agreement. Both Frameworks aim to support the development of a sustainable, meaningful and inclusive approach to participation across Scottish Government.

Significant progress was noted to have taken place to advance children and young people’s participation. The Children and Young People Participation Framework Agreement was launched in July, and a project to co-create guidance to support the participation of children and young people in decision-making was completed earlier this year. The Right Way Hub was the output from the project, and is a platform that includes resources and guidance to support officials and decision-makers to ensure Article 12 of the UNCRC (Scotland) (Bill) is respected.

Doreen Grove, government representative for the participation commitment, agreed with the update provided.

Climate change commitment

Members were reminded that the Climate Policy Engagement Network was launched earlier this year, and is a digital platform to directly engage with civil society partners on Scottish Government’s climate change and just transition plans.

Jennifer Kane confirmed the commitment was close to completing phase two of its engagement project on the above plans, and government leads were now seeking to close the feedback loop before launching phase three which will involve further engagement activity. It was outlined that they are looking at how government communicates clearly where network members are having an impact on government policy development. The next stage of engagement will be to hone in on specific policy proposals to provide further feedback to members on how their engagement is influencing policy as it is being developed.

The network was noted to have now become more than a two way conversation, with civil society partners posting on the network and generating conversations between members. It was noted that commitment leads will also take stock of the recommendations outlined in the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) report, particularly around growing the network and how to improve representation.

Alex Stobart, civil society representative for the climate change commitment, confirmed his agreement with the update provided.

Health and social care commitment

Rachel Dowle provided an update for the health and social care commitment. It was noted that milestones as part of the commitment focus across two key programmes – the National Care Service and the Getting it Right for Everyone pathfinders programme. Both initiatives are about embedding co-design approaches, increasing opportunities for and the quality of participation in policy development and service delivery.

It was explained that the programmes are two different models, with the National Care Service primarily focusing on policy, and the Getting it Right for Everyone pathfinders programme concentrating on upskilling and capacity building for participants, health and social care partnerships and third sector organisations. A significant amount of delivery work has taken place over the past few months to develop tools, materials and training from these two programmes.

Next steps were outlined to involve consolidating these resources, and a focus on how the commitment can maximise the opportunities for civil society to co-design this approach. As there are now tangible outputs, government and civil society leads will look at membership of the civic group. It was noted there had been high engagement on the delivery side from civil society, but that they need to make sure resources produced can be spread and scaled across different areas.

Susan Paxton, civil society representative for the commitment, sent her apologies to the meeting.

Evaluating progress at Scotland’s Open Government action plan 2021 to 2025 midpoint

Doreen Grove facilitated a discussion around action plan progress to date. Attendees on the call were invited to reflect upon objectives set at the outset of the plan, and whether government and civil society consider their collective efforts are meeting these ambitions.

The group were reminded that they were encouraged to utilise and draw from the inception report and its recommendations produced by Andy McDevitt, in his capacity as an Independent Reporting Mechanism, to consider where progress had been made.

Group members acknowledged that progress had been made across commitments that largely reflect their respective ambitions, and outlined where work to implement recommendations by the IRM had been carried out.

Discussions highlighted a series of linked areas of risk that could affect the impact and delivery of the current action plan. These included:

  • the need to ensure the infrastructure that has been put in place to date is utilised and built upon
  • a more joined up approach across policy areas to raise awareness and support with wider implementation – including improving communications and engagement. This should involve conveying the importance of each commitment and the tangible benefits, which may lead to realigning milestones to support this
  • high level buy-in to ensure continuous commitment, and progress on milestones are not viewed as a series of outputs
  • resource challenges could impact the effectiveness of the commitments and progression of milestones

Doreen Grove closed the discussion by proposing a workshop should be conducted for commitment leads to delve deeper into these challenges. A workshop would also support members to begin to address how Scotland moves forward to complete the current plan, set out a road map for the next iteration of the national action plan, and where it can better align with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) five year strategy.

Glasgow’s Open Government Action plan 2021 to 2023 – update

A representative from Glasgow City Council was unable to attend the meeting due to an unforeseen circumstance.

The group agreed it would seek an update at a future meeting.

Civil Society committee update

Lucy McTernan announced that she would stand down from her role as chair for Scotland’s Open Government civil society network, and subsequently her role as co-chair for the Open Government Steering Group committee on grounds of good governance. It was noted this meeting would conclude her tenure as co-chair for the group.

It was confirmed Juliet Swann had been elected as the new civil society committee chair, and would assume the role of co-chair alongside the Minister for the group going forward.

Ms McTernan confirmed that she would continue to serve as a civil society representative on the OGP civil society international steering group and on Scotland’s fiscal openness and transparency commitment sub group.

The Minister congratulated Juliet on her appointment, and shared his thanks and appreciation for Ms McTernan’s continued support and dedication to Open Government in Scotland.

Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2023

It was noted that the OGP global summit 2023 had been an energising event, and that Scotland was well represented by government and civil society.

The summit featured the formal launch of the OGP Strategy 2023 to 2028 and the Open Government Challenge. Members of the Partnership have been challenged to raise the ambition of reforms in areas outlined in the new strategy. Areas recognised in the strategy are themes that are considered important to strengthening democracies and improving communities globally. It was noted by Lucy McTernan that the Open Government Challenge was to help ensure more mechanisms for connection and international learning are available to members.

The group was also made aware of a blog written by Juliet Swann following the summit. The blog outlines reflections from the event and lessons for transparent and accountable governance.

Doreen Grove closed the discussion by raising that OGP and Scottish Government colleagues are exploring the potential for Scotland to host Nordic + group members interested in fiscal transparency. The proposal had been instigated at the summit, with general support from Scottish Government colleagues and civil society leads for the fiscal transparency commitment.

The Minister noted here his apologies for joining the meeting later, he confirmed an urgent statement from the First Minister had required his attendance in Parliament. He offered his thanks for the progress being made at this halfway point of the national action plan.

Any other closing business 

Councillor Heddle noted that COSLA did not appear to have involvement in the work of the Open Government fiscal transparency commitment. Given the work underway on local government funding and council tax, he questioned whether it would be productive if COSLA were involved in this commitment.

Representatives from COSLA also suggested that the fiscal framework as part of the Local Governance Review could have a connection to the fiscal transparency commitment.

The Minister and Lucy McTernan both agreed this would be useful as the commitment now had concrete areas of work that could be progressed at a council level.

Niall Davidson, coordinator for fiscal and openness and transparency, caveated it would be some time before the fiscal transparency portal would involve local government and other public bodies directly, and would see proactive engagement with these stakeholders as a key area for the next plan. However it was agreed that having local government insight to help shape the foundations of the portal would be helpful.

The group agreed Simon Cameron would take forward this proposal. It was confirmed COSLA could offer both a COSLA official and local government colleague to work on this.

Next steps

The next meeting of the Open Government Steering Group is provisionally due to take place Wednesday 13 December. Any non-members wishing to attend this meeting as observers should contact the secretariat (


  • Simon Cameron to engage with Fiscal Transparency commitment leads to discuss where COSLA could be involved in this work
  • The Open Government team to organise a workshop in early 2024 to facilitate a discussion around the conclusion of the current Open Government action plan and the next iteration
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