From Consultation to Participation

14. February, 2003


Donald Reid

Prezentācija (angļu val.) seminārā Valsts pārvaldes, nevalstisko organizāciju un plašsaziņas līdzekļu loma sabiedrības iesaistīšanā lēmumu pieņemšanā 2003. gada 12. februārī

Any political party or government or Parliament which takes participation seriously will reap great rewards


effective policy development and implementation

Any political party or government or Parliament which does NOT take participation seriously will sow failure for itself and for its society

disengagement and ill will

ineffective policy development and frustrated implementation

Listening : not just appearing to listen

Participation at elections and between elections

Sharing power


Political and constitutional background

  • Referendum in 1997 after election of Labour Government
  • Scottish Parliament
  • re-established in 1999 (after 292 years)

    (foreign affairs, defence, economic policy reserved to London)

  • Scottish Executive
  • appointment of government:
    First Minister and cabinet of 22 ministers for Scotland

    civil service in Scotland

  • competing views of sovereignty
  • Scotland: ‘sovereignty resides in the People’ (historical view)

    United Kingdom: ‘sovereignty resides in the monarch or (now) ‘the Queen-in-Parliament’


Civic society background

  • broad movement for home rule leading to failed referendum in 1970s
  • gathering civic campaign
  • continuous vigil outside government offices in Edinburgh

    various campaign groups (eg ‘People and Parliament’ )

  • Scottish Constitutional Convention
  • called by civic society (churches, unions)

  • Scottish Civic Assembly
  • unions, churches, universities, voluntary sector

  • Consultative Steering Group (post-referendum)
  • a joint civic / political group which agreed principles for Parliamentary procedures

    four key principles of participation

    recommended establishment of Scottish Civic Forum


So what’s different?

  • law making nearer to people (addressing the ‘democratic deficit’)
  • Scottish Parliament elected by proportional electoral system
  • (agreed in Scottish Constitutional Convention)

    fixed terms

    no party likely to have majority (present government is a coalition)

    presence of ‘minority parties’ (Greens etc)

  • legislation can be tabled by
  • government

    Parliament (MSPs or a committee)

    the ‘people’ (through Petitions Committee)

  • axiom: “the Executive is accountable to the Parliament and BOTH are accountable to ‘the people’ “


The four ‘CSG’ principles

  • agreed by the Consultative Steering Group
  • accessibility


    sharing of power

    equal opportunity

  • often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Constitutional’ Steering Group’ !!


The emergence of the Scottish Civic Forum

  • recommended by the Consultative Steering Group
  • agreed at final meetings of the Scottish Civic Assembly
  • government funding agreed in early 2000
  • established in April 2000 (one year late ! )
  • a network of civic organisations (non-political, non-statutory, not for profit)
  • Social partners (churches, unions, business, voluntary sector)

    Other partners – at present about 350 (national / local )

    Governed by an elected Council

    Staff – 5 in Edinburgh (full time); 8 local-co-ordinators (working one day a week)


The working principles of the Scottish Civic Forum

  • Not a ‘one stop shop’ – a ‘gateway NOT a gatekeeper’
  • Independent and complementary
  • A ‘guardian’ of ‘the CSG principles’: a commentator on processes of government
  • A ‘neutral convener’, enabling dialogue across sectors – by the creation of a ‘safe space’
  • A concordat agreed with the Scottish Executive in 2000
  • No concordat (yet) with the Scottish Parliament (but in 2003?)


What do we do?

  • Facilitate ‘Legislative Participation’ ( reactive )
  • summary information about all current government proposals and ‘consultations’

    a few key issues:
    – Reform of Family Law (controversial)
    – GM crops
    – tackling discrimination

  • Promote Civic Priorities ( proactive )
  • Future Scotland (sustainable development)

    rural development

    role of the media

  • Auditing Democratic Participation (monitoring)
  • the only independent assessment of implementation of CSG principles by the government and the Parliament (published in November 2002)


What do we do (by category of subject):

  • Governance issues (Civic Forum ‘comments’)
  • Freedom of Information

    Reform of local government

    Future of Europe

    rural participation

    equal opportunity

  • Cross cutting issues (Civic Forum ‘facilitates’)
  • Future Scotland (sustainable development)


  • ‘Wicked issues’ (Civic Forum creates dialogue)
  • occasional socially divisive proposals (eg reform of Scottish family law)

    genetically modified crops

    in future: policy on drug use?


Case study: Parents and Children White Paper

(a government discussion paper on reform of Scottish family law)

  • Controversial because
  • makes divorce easier

    gives legal status to couples ‘living together’ but not married (for the sake of the children)

    is likely to create possibility of ‘civil partnerships’
    which would include ‘same sex’ relationships under human rights requirements

  • Legislation postponed until after the election in May 2003

Scottish Civic Forum

  • creates an opportunity for dialogue in ‘safe space’
  • invites all interested / affected to meet (!)
  • – churches, civil rights groups, lone parent groups,

    – lesbian/gay.bisexual/transgender groups, childrens groups, individuals

    ‘who will be affected’ ?
    ‘who are the dissidents’

  • designs and manages ‘safe space’
  • recording ALL views
    mapping consensus if any
    mapping dissensus

  • agrees report with all participants and convey to government

Key elements of process

  • enables constructive dialogue (alternative: competitove lobbying of government)
  • dispelling misconceptions

    identifying of common ground

    identifying real areas of disagreement

  • building of relationships
  • trust in government

    sharing of responsibility for discourse

    assent even to disagreeable outcomes

Key policy outcome in this case:

unanimous agreement on three key recommendations

The Civic Forum could convene this meeting because we are independent and have neutral


From consultation to participation

  • At what stage is civic society involved in policy development ?

problem identification

analysis of issues

identification of possible ‘solutions’

analysis of options

assessment of options

publication of proposals

  • call for responses (the consultation period)

short response time

competitive lobbying (some can’t compete)
analysis and assessment of responses

adaptation of proposals?

inadequate feedback about weighting of responses

publication of legislation

political friction

passing of legislation


frustrated by ‘lack of ownership’?


Key issues

  • Status of the commitment to participation
  • is there political commitment to participation?

    is there legal expression of that commitment?

    is there recognition (political / legal) of independent mechanisms to enable participation and monitor it?

  • Resources to enable it
  • how is participation / communication resourced within government

    what resourcing is there of independent bodies enabling genuine participation

    (what understanding is there of these different roles?)


Donald Reid
Scottish Civic Forum
21 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JX, Scotland raksts

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