Scotland's Open Government action plan: 2018 to 2020

Scotland’s second national action plan as a member of the Open Government Partnership.

This document is part of a collection

3. Summary Of The Commitments

This section outlines what we plan to do under each of the five open government commitments in our action plan. We have used this section to give a short, easy-to-read version of the commitments so you can see quickly what we’re doing. We’ve included the detailed commitment templates in a separate document, published on our website[13].

The five commitments for 2018 to 2020 are to:

1. provide financial and performance transparency (help you to understand how our finances work);

2. provide a framework that supports overall change in Scottish Government to improve the way people take part in open policy-making and delivering services;

3. improve the way we share information;

4. be more accountable for public services; and

5. aim for transparency and involvement in Scotland as the UK leaves the European Union.

Commitment 1:

Provide financial and performance transparency

What problem are you trying to solve?

How we use public money was one of the things people were most interested in during our public discussions. They wanted to understand how and why decisions are made and how those decisions help make Scotland a good place to live.

What are you going to do?

We and the new Scottish Exchequer and Scottish National Investment Bank (see below) will work with partners and experts to find and understand good practice on transparency, accountability and public involvement. We will hold ‘round table’ events to share what we have learned, in order to improve current and future financial practice.

Scotland gained new powers through the 2012 and 2016 Scotland Acts, which gave the Government additional tax, spending and borrowing responsibilities. It was also recently announced that there will be a new Scottish Exchequer, and a Scottish National Investment Bank will be established. There’s an opportunity to set up these new institutions in the spirit of open government from the very beginning, and to try to help people understand what the new powers mean for them and make it easier to understand how public finances work. We will:

  • learn from other countries to make sure our government and these new institutions are developed openly and transparently;
  • listen to you about how we can make Scotland’s public finances more transparent and accessible (to help encourage you to understand, discuss, debate and take part in financial and policy decision-making); and
  • work to develop financial information that young people can understand, starting with workshops to answer their questions about finances.

How will that solve the problem?

This will help to solve the problem as we and the new institutions begin to understand from others – initially from young people – the questions people have about public finances. They will use this understanding to improve the information that is available to the public and to answer those questions.

Commitment 2:

Providing a framework to support overall change in Scottish Government to improve the way people take part in open policymaking and delivering services

What problem are you trying to solve?

Improving how you can take part in making policies and delivering services was the main priority to emerge from the public discussions on open government. You had concerns about how we consulted and involved you and about wider public services. The result of this is a growing mistrust of both the processes and the outcomes.

You were concerned about the following:

  • An inconsistent approach and lack of feedback, leaving people unsure what we do with their input.
  • That we rely on a small number of stakeholders, rather than try to involve the wider public (causing a few people to get tired of constant consultations).
  • That we rely too much on formal consultation, and too often at a point where the options have been narrowed or all but fixed.
  • Our consultation documents are often complicated and long. They are unsuitable for anyone who is not familiar with the arguments, the type of language or the actions involved, and so make many people feel excluded.
  • We do not use technology enough, as many people now choose to communicate using phones, tablets and computers.
  • There is not enough support available to make sure a wide range of people can fully take part in things like consultation events and online discussions and that we value their time properly.

What are you going to do?

We will develop a ‘participation framework’ that guides good practice across government in open policy-making. We will:

  • test new approaches in a number of key policy areas, including the Local Governance Review and ‘participatory budgeting’;
  • review how we consult across government; and
  • develop training, guidance and case studies to explain different ways you can take part and how we can use these new approaches to involving and working with policy-makers.

(Participatory budgeting is a way for people to have a direct say in how money is spent. It is used all over the world and in Scotland to involve people in how money is spent in their local area or region. See more at

How will that solve the problem?

It will:

  • improve our employees’ understanding of the benefits of involving people early in a process;
  • raise awareness and give people the skills they need to carry out (or commission someone to carry out) effective ways of including the public; and
  • help to make sure our employees are choosing the right methods for the right reasons at the right time.

Our overall aim is to respond to the clear message from the public that there is a need for better ways for them to take part. We hope the result will be guidance and training that can support us to involve you regularly and effectively. Our wider aim is that your views, expertise and first‑hand experience are feeding in to the right places in government, at the right time, as policies and services are developed.

Commitment 3:

Improving how we share information

What problem are you trying to solve?

The public told us that they feel strongly that the information we and public bodies share is not always easily accessible and that they cannot always understand it. Some people and organisations like to reuse the information and statistics that we share, for example, for research or business. To make it possible for people to make good use of public‑sector information like this, we need to share it in a format that allows this. We provide free and open access to a wide range of information, but there is still more information that we can make easily and consistently accessible.

We also heard from members of the Open Government Network, who thought it was important for open government to make some progress in social policy areas, such as health.

What are you going to do?

We will make more public-sector information available for social and economic good. We will:

  • expand the range of information available, continuing to work in partnership across the public sector;
  • share more types of information, such as financial information and all information that supports our National Performance Framework;
  • establish a method for publishing Scotland’s official statistics information in a format that allows people to reuse it; and
  • develop innovative ways of making information relevant and accessible to a wide range of users.

We will better understand Scotland’s communities and support people to develop their skills. We will:

  • increase the amount of information and statistics about local areas and smaller regions across Scotland;
  • provide appropriate explanations or other information that helps you understand and reuse public information; and
  • plan how we can help you develop skills to make full use of (and reuse) public information.

Also, in line with our Digital Health & Care Strategy,[14] we will involve the public in developing an approach which makes clear how you can choose how we use and share your health and care information and how you can access your own information. Working with people across Scotland, we aim to make information useful and make sure that it can be accessed and shared openly and transparently.

How will that solve the problem?

It will:

  • increase the amount of Scotland’s information in official statistics published as public information;
  • increase the amount of detailed information published on local areas or small regions which helps describe communities;
  • make information easier to find, understand and reuse;
  • explain technical information, and how it can be used, to a non-technical audience; and
  • plan possible future work on helping you interpret, understand and communicate statistics and information.

Commitment 4:

Be more accountable for public services

What problem are you trying to solve?

You have told us you want to know more about:

  • how to make your voice heard;
  • how you can have a say in, and contribute to, public‑sector improvement and accountability; and
  • who makes decisions about how public services are designed and delivered, and how they make those decisions.

One idea that we heard from the public[15] was about making sense of the accountability process to help them better understand how governments and public services are held to account for their decisions, spending and actions.

How public services are held to account in Scotland is complicated. It can be challenging for people to know how (or whether) to share their views, resolve a problem or hold public services to account at an individual, organisational, sectoral or national level. A lack of understanding and certainty around how public services are held to account can make people feel powerless, frustrated or uninvolved.

What are you going to do?

This commitment is split into two parts. Part 1 is led jointly by scrutiny bodies and regulators, and part 2 is led by us. The two parts are linked and each part will support the other to help solve this problem.

Part 1: Understanding accountability and improving people’s access to accountability processes.

Under part 1, scrutiny bodies and regulators will commit to working together to improve the public’s understanding of and access to accountability processes. This will include:

  • understanding current public-service scrutiny and regulatory bodies (their decisions and the public’s access to them);
  • working with a wide range of people and partners to see how people would like to use their rights to complain, appeal or assess how public bodies perform, and what the barriers are to this; and
  • finding ways to improve access to information on who is responsible and strengthen people’s ability to hold public services to account.

Part 2: A citizen-focused approach to public services

Accountability isn’t just about reacting when things go wrong. It must be fixed firmly throughout public services. Taking account of the work of part 1 of this commitment, we will:

  • develop ways of considering the effect of public policy and decision-making on people; and
  • use the principles of open government in advice services and a new consumer‑protection body.

How will that solve the problem?

Both parts of this commitment aim to help you understand how you can make public services accountable. They will improve your ability to influence issues and hold public services to account. We expect this commitment to:

  • improve the quality of information on public-service accountability and make it easier to access and use; and
  • make it easier for you to use public services and find support to sort out issues.

Commitment 5:

Transparency and involvement as the UK leaves the European Union

Please note: At the time of developing this national action plan (June to December 2018), the shape of the Brexit agreement and its possible impact on Scotland is not known. So, we are keen on keeping this commitment flexible to help us respond appropriately to this fast-moving situation which is largely outwith our control.

What problem are you trying to solve?

From discussions with people in Scotland, there is a belief that the public do not trust information surrounding Brexit. There is a wide range of conflicting information about the possible terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and what this means for people and businesses in Scotland and the EU and other EU nationals living in Scotland.

Since the UK-wide vote to leave the European Union in 2016, the UK, as the member state negotiating with the EU, has not provided objective information on the process, outcomes and possible implications of leaving the European Union.

What are you going to do?

We are committed to:

  • publishing information on the possible impact of Brexit and the actual effects of Brexit as they happen;
  • publishing results of any research and analysis we commission, where possible;
  • supporting and encouraging people and communities to get involved so we can hear your views and you can understand the information, implications and effects of the decisions taken by the UK Government;
  • making public our preferred approach to leaving the European Union, and the evidence that supports that approach; and
  • involving stakeholders, including the Scottish Parliament, as we continue to assess the negotiations to leave the EU and the implications of the outcomes for Scotland, and take people’s views into account in our response.

We have already published several papers on Brexit. All our publications relating to Brexit are here.[16]

How will that solve the problem?

Listening to stakeholders and the public across Scotland and involving them will help policy-makers understand the implications of Brexit, so they can help protect what matters to people in Scotland.

When Brexit negotiations first began, we published our clear position based on evidence and analysis. This helped make sure that you were informed. By continuing to talk to communities, we will improve our understanding of all of the issues people are facing to do with the effects of Brexit. This will also increase understanding of, and influence our policy on, negotiations with the UK Government and help build agreement in Scotland for reducing the impact of Brexit on people’s lives and wellbeing.

If you would like more information on these commitments, there are full details in the supporting document published on our website.[17]


Email: Niamh Webster

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