Participation handbook

This handbook provides a guide to good practice in participation work across Scottish Government. It provides information about participatory methods and when to use them, the development of an effective participation strategy, and signposts to further resources.

Legal commitments

Our commitment to participation and to using a variety of methods of engagement to facilitate that participation was set out in the Scotland Act. Its key principles are:

  • power-sharing
  • accountability
  • openness and participation
  • equal opportunities

The commitment to facilitating participation was further embedded in the Standing Orders for the Scottish Parliament. These state (in Rule 9.3) that for any Government Bill introduced to Parliament it will be set out what consultation, if any, was undertaken.

This means there is a requirement to demonstrate that there have been opportunities for people to participate in the process of developing a Bill.

The choice to use the word ‘consult’ in the Standing Orders has led many to assume that a traditional written consultation process has to be followed in order to meet this requirement. This is not necessarily the case. As guidance in the current Bill Handbook says:

written consultation is only one of a number of consultation methods that can constitute a consultation process”

Consultation is just one level of participation, and a traditional written consultation just one way of consulting. There can be many benefits to written consultation, and in some instances it is a requirement. But it is important to open up opportunities for participation in ways that best suit the needs of your policy area, the type of contribution you are looking for, and the characteristics and needs of the people you want to engage with.

Whatever type of engagement methods you decide on, you will usually need to obtain appropriate Ministerial clearance.

Please note, there are a limited number of policy processes that set out when and how engagement is to be carried out. This is either by stipulating a traditional written consultation at a specific stage (e.g. on the policy proposals rather than the draft instrument), or by mandating timelines or publicising opportunities for participation in specific places. In these cases you must meet these requirements.



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