Institutionalising Participatory and Deliberative Democracy working group recommendations: Scottish Government response

Scottish Government response to the IPDD working group recommendations on how Scotland can establish infrastructure for high quality participatory and deliberative engagements.

Participatory and Democratic Innovations

Early foundational actions

1. Adopt values, principles and standards for institutionalising participatory and deliberative democracy in Scotland

Scottish Government will adopt the values, principles and standards for institutionalising participatory and deliberative democracy in Scotland. This will sit with a Participation team. They will take on the authority to advise on the expertise and resources needed to uphold these values, principles and standards across the work of government. Within this team's remit will be the development of training and resources to embed these values, principles and standards across the work of government.

This response also covers the Citizens' Assembly recommendation 3. 'Adopt the values, principles and standards set out in this report to underpin all future Citizens' Assemblies, and work to build a trusted system that supports and understands these'.

2. Establish a Unit within Scottish Government with responsibility for Participation, including establishing Citizens' Assembly infrastructure

Scottish Government acknowledges that this recommendation is core to ensuring that investment in participation is proportionate, focused and able to support good practice development across government.

In the current financial year, Scottish Government will look across its existing workforce to bring together expertise that can begin taking forward priority actions. This will form the basis for a multi-disciplinary Participation Team which will have the skills and authority to oversee key pieces of participatory work, and the authority to uphold the IPDD values, principles and standards across government.

A core function will be providing practical support to government officials to plan, deliver and evaluate participatory work in a way that maintains the values, principles and standards set out by the IPDD working group. To do this, the team's work will initially include:

  • developing a set of resources and activities (training, guidance) to provide ongoing support for participation work across government
  • development of a procurement framework for recruitment, design and delivery of high quality participation
  • providing consistent advice, oversight and strategic continuity to participation work across government, including on the governance, delivery and oversight of Citizens' Assemblies and other deliberative processes
  • research work to maintain quality of evidence bases, institutional learning, monitoring and evaluation

In the short term, Scottish Government will bring together a virtual team of existing staff who have some of the required skills and experience to deliver this function. This team will make direct links to the Children's Rights Unit, Equality Inclusion & Human Rights, and Community Empowerment.

An audit will be carried out to determine what leadership, governance, budget, skills and experience will be required from within the organisation to fully deliver this function – this may include areas such as Communications, Service Design and Social Research. This work will form the basis for a paper for Ministers' consideration, outlining the resources required to create a dedicated multi-disciplinary Participation Team. In addition, it will advise on how and when Scottish Government will buy-in skills as required – for example, commissioning design and facilitation from practitioners with skills in the field of participation and deliberative democracy.

In the medium term, a Participation team will support developing participation and deliberation skills internally. It will continue to be important that external expertise is available to provide strategic and independent oversight, design and facilitation.

In the longer term, Scottish Government will develop this remit into a team which is multi-disciplinary and practice led with overall responsibility for Participation (including Citizens' Assemblies), and which encourages investment in skills, competencies and knowledge.

Due to current budget challenges, this ambition will be reviewed in following financial years.

This response is also relevant to the following Citizens' Assembly recommendations:

1. 'Put in place infrastructure to deliver on commitments to run routine Citizens' Assemblies, starting with Citizens' Assemblies already scheduled by Scottish Government'

4. 'Ensure development of annual Citizens' Assemblies is sponsored and organised by a practice-led Unit that has clear responsibility and can ensure continuity of approach across policy areas'

6. Establish a common research framework to evaluate all future Citizens' Assemblies, identifying budget, commissioning and transparency

3. Organise a children and young people's democracy symposium to co-develop a Citizens' Assembly for under 16s

Our action plan to progress the human rights of children and young people was published in November 2021. It includes a commitment to establish a Children and Young People's (CYP) Consortium to support a sustainable, meaningful and inclusive approach to children and young people's participation in decision-making.

Through different pieces of work, we have successfully managed the involvement of children and young people (CYP) in the UNCRC Implementation programme. There is now a growing need to introduce across government structures and guidance to ensure participation with CYP is meaningful, coordinated, and strategic.

The Children's Rights Unit (CRU) will develop and implement a new internal mechanism called the 'CYP Participation Framework'. This will be established by summer 2023. The approach will address the increasing need for CYP participation across Scottish Government and will establish a mechanism that supports quality engagement with a lasting structural legacy. The CRU will work closely with colleagues from Policy and Procurement, and stakeholders within the sector to create the new framework.

The framework will provide the mechanism to enable future Citizens' Assemblies and other participatory and deliberative processes with CYP.

4. Organise a local government roundtable and work with local government to progress opportunities for participatory and deliberative democracy

Scottish Government and COSLA have established a working group that will consider meaningful short-term changes to Council Tax, alongside a new Fiscal Framework for Local Government. This working group will also consider approaches to longer term reform, including the development of effective deliberative engagement on sources of local government funding and Council Tax. These approaches can include a roundtable that leads to work with local government.

Current Parliament

5. Support upcoming reviews and legislation to embed participation and deliberation across the system

Scottish Government has committed to a review of Community Empowerment legislation, to work to embed Human Rights and the rights of the child, and to a Local Democracy Bill that will follow the conclusion of the Local Governance Review.

During the course of this Parliament, we will identify opportunities to embed participatory and deliberative approaches into legislation and regulation. The Participation team (outlined in response to recommendation 2) will advise on aspects of this. This advice will support relevant teams to work collaboratively with government colleagues, with stakeholders outside government, and with members of the public to ensure their active and inclusive engagement and influence. A priority focus of this engagement will be marginalised groups who will be most impacted by this work.

6. Initiate the co-creation of a National Participation Strategy

Scottish Government welcomes the proposal for a national strategy that sets out how the people of Scotland could be engaged in the development and delivery of policy and public services, and that builds on the values, principles and standards outlined by the IPDD working group.

The Participation team will be tasked with initial scoping of this strategy and identification of partners to take this work forward collaboratively. We recognise that it may not be appropriate for government to lead on the development of this. As outlined by the IPDD working group, this collaboration will include government, local government, civil society, academia and communities.

Due to current budget and capacity constraints, it is likely that this work will commence towards the end of this Parliamentary session and will continue into the following Parliament. Any delay would be to ensure that the Participation team has the capacity and resources to support this collaboration effectively.

7. Work towards improving training provision, including by establishing Scotland's Participation Academy, in partnership with academia, the public sector, and civil society

Scottish Government recognises the need to build the participation skills and capabilities of people across public services and civil society, and that this is required to realise ambitions for participatory and deliberative democracy. Within the Participation Team's remit will be the development of training, guidance and awareness raising to embed these skills across government.

A key step in a wider process of improving training provision will be the scoping and development of a National Participation Strategy. As with recommendation six, this work will require collaboration across several organisations and institutions and would not necessarily be led by government.

This will be followed by an assessment of the options for the best routes to improving training provision across Scotland, including considering the development of a Participation Academy. This will include considering how best to enhance and build on existing resources and expertise, for example within current academic institutions and civil society.

As noted above, work to develop a National Participation Strategy is likely to commence towards the end of this Parliamentary term. Work to assess options for improved training provision is likely to take place in the following Parliament and should be seen as a longer term ambition.

Longer term ambition

8. Work towards establishing a National Centre for Participation in Scotland

This recommendation specifies that "In this Parliament, develop costed proposals for an independent National Centre for Participation, that can be launched in the following Parliamentary term. An ambition for the next Parliamentary term is to then establish the National Centre for Participation in Scotland.".

Scottish Government recognises the value of this as a longer term ambition, but is unable to commit to these timeframes. The establishment of a National Centre for Participation in Scotland – or comparable body – would be contingent on available future budget and on the outcomes of work to develop a National Participation Strategy and improved training provision. This will be reviewed during the following Parliamentary term.

9. Consider the proposals of the Citizens' Assembly on the Future of Scotland for new infrastructure associated with the Scottish Parliament, including a Citizens' Chamber or Citizens' Committee

A recommendation from the Citizens' Assembly on the Future of Scotland (CAoFS) focused on the establishment of a Citizens' Chamber of Citizen's Committee. As set out in the Scottish Government's initial response to CAoFS, there would be a challenge in incorporating a representative selection of the public directly into existing government and Parliamentary institutions that are based on regularly elected representative democracy. The Scottish Government plans to engage with the Scottish Parliament on the best way to take these forward.



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