A national conversation on local democracy and community power
The aim of the Local Governance Review is to empower Scotland’s different places and diverse communities to shape their own futures. We are doing this by considering how powers and resources should be shared between different spheres of government and local communities.
As part of the Review, we recently launched a national conversation called Democracy Matters asking communities to contribute their ideas on what changes are needed to encourage a more local, participatory and inclusive democracy in Scotland. Communities across Scotland have until 28 February 2024 to share their views and we want to hear from as many people as possible.
In 2018, discussions took place in diverse communities across Scotland. Over 4,000 people took part and shared their views on whether their community should be able to take more decisions about a whole range of public services, and the benefits this might bring.
We received 334 submissions, with many submitted by communities who considered the questions together. Other responses came from individuals and a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations. We also asked equalities organisations and those with experience working with some of the most deprived or marginalised communities to host conversations including Glasgow Disability Alliance, BEMIS, and Church of Scotland. This helped to ensure that the Democracy Matters conversation included diverse voices from a wide range of backgrounds.
We also thought it was important to hear the voices of children, who are too often left out of decision making that affects them. Scotland’s Children’s Parliament worked with a group of children aged 12 – 13 to explore what mattered to them when thinking about decision-making and power. The children produced this fantastic magazine explaining their findings.
What we heard
What we heard during early engagement was that people overwhelmingly want greater control of the decisions that affect their communities the most. We produced a short animation summarising what we heard and what we need to do next to respond.
Summer 2023: resuming the conversation
Based on what people told us during early engagement, we developed an outline for what ambitious new arrangements for community level decision-making might look like. These arrangements try to reflect people’s desire for a vibrant, equal system of local democracy in our towns, villages and neighbourhoods. In this type of democratic future, people understand their rights and communities have the power and resources to take significant decisions for themselves.
The second phase of the Democracy Matters conversation (which is now underway!) will deepen the conversation to understand in greater detail what this type of future could look like in different communities.
We are asking communities to consider sixteen questions. These questions are grouped into a small number of key themes which people identified as being important during early engagement:
- future powers
- community participation
- nurturing community capacity
This important second phase of community engagement was launched by Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning and the COSLA Presidential Team at Linlithgow Community Development Trust on 28th August 2023. This event was attended by local community leaders and key community and equality organisations. There was a real energy in the room, with attendees welcoming the opportunity to help design modern and powerful arrangements for community level decision-making.
We are inviting people to respond in a number of ways:
- as an individual, sharing their own views
- as a community by organising a conversation, to share the views of a community of interest or place
- as an organisation, to share the views of that organisation or the people it represents
You have until the end of February 2024 to submit your response.
It’s important that we hear from diverse communities across Scotland. Materials are available in both Easy Read and BSL translation. We have also produced (with help from stakeholders) materials to help with the facilitation of community conversations. These are all available on the Democracy Matters consultation page.
If you need help to cover the costs of holding a Democracy Matters conversation, small voluntary organisations and community groups can apply to the Democracy Matters: Community Engagement Fund for grants of up to £300. Information about the fund and a short application form are available.
We want as many different voices as possible to get involved in community discussions. Together, we can imagine a new democratic future that is fair and accessible to all. If you want to stay in touch, you can sign up to our newsletter, email us firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter @CommEmpower.
We will be back with further blogs over the engagement period to let you know how it’s going and share how some of the conversations are going throughout the country!