Meeting notes 5th March 2018

Themes from 2016 crowdsourcing (Scotland Network)

by Paul Bradley

As we move towards wider discussions on what Scotland’s next Open Government Action Plan should cover we would appreciate your help and feedback on how best to frame those discussions. 

We know from speaking to people that it’s not always easy to understand the links between Open Government and your own areas of interest or work so how we present and support people to engage will be critical to getting the best out of this process.

We also know that many of you took part in the discussions leading up to the development of the 2017 action plan, where a larger number of commitments where originally developed than could be used in the final version of the Pioneer plan, and we don’t want to lose the richness of those discussions (6 themes below).

So, our question to you is; where should we start the conversation about the next action plan…

  1. Previous themes & commitments (6 themes & 5 commitments [hyperlink])?
  2. Somewhere totally new. For example, themes could be transparency, participation, young people, environment…
  3. Don’t theme it and see where the conversations go.

Let us know what you think, either by emailing us on (happy to use [email protected] or a network one) or vote on our twitter poll.


Theme 1: Access to Information

Challenge: Ensuring that access to information is based on the principle of transparency and openness and that FOI laws are an integral part of the wider approach.

Context: As a central part of Open Government, it is important that members of the public and organisations can access the information they need from Scottish public bodies in a form that they can use.  This is so that people can pursue interests, participate in government decision making and ensure the public sector is held to account for its policies and spending.  This recognises that the “Right to Know” is a cornerstone of democratic engagement and helping governments to improve continuously.  The Scottish Government’s Open Data Strategy complements the right to information under FOI and aims to ensure anonymised data generated by public bodies is made available through easily accessible channels.


Theme 2: Anti- Corruption (Transparency as Regulation)

Challenge: Maintain trust, integrity & accountability in government

Context: Corruption harms societies, undermines economic development and threatens democracy (UK anti-corruption plan, December 2014).  Corruption is the abuse of power for personal or other benefit; involving dishonest or fraudulent activity, often involving bribery. It is insidious and reduces public confidence in institutions and organisations. Acting publicly and openly against corruption will reduce the potential for corruption and reinstate public confidence in organisations, particularly those funded by the public purse.


Theme 3: Civic Participation (Citizen Engagement & Participatory Democracy)

Challenge: To ensure that our government, working with civil society, creates the conditions, systems, processes and mechanisms for people to be involved in and to influence the decisions that affect their lives.  Scottish Ministers and Scottish civil society want to see a step change in society and in how the Scottish Government does its work.  There are 3 clear priorities of government:  prosperity, tackling inequalities and protecting and reforming public services.  For all of this work there is an expectation of increased involvement of citizens and a requirement for us to work with and pass power to people and communities, to deliver a fairer and a more prosperous society.

Context: Open government requires openness to citizen participation and engagement in policy making and governance, including basic protections for civil liberties and human rights.  In Scotland we recognise that the benefits of engagement can include: better outcomes for individuals, families and communities; a more robust and sustainable economy; better service delivery; more engaged and empowered citizens; leading to greater trust and understanding of government.  This process of recognising  and building on the strengths of people is the basis of our drive to reform public service, with people, rather than to them and is described as the Scottish Approach.


Theme 4: Open Data

Challenge: The challenge in Scotland is to escalate the pace and scale of openly accessible data, building on current good practice, open standards and ensuring  the on-going engagement of a widening community of data users to identify data for priority release.

Context: Open data is the raw material of open knowledge.  Accessible, usable and shared data creates knowledge and innovative processes.  By making data that the public sector holds open it enables communities and individuals to hold government to account, understand more about public services, gain insight into their own community and contribute to the future design and delivery of public services.   Publishing public  sector  data in a reusable form empowers others to use the data for new and exciting purposes (data innovation), to the benefit of the economy and society, while taking full account of the importance of cyber security and privacy.


Theme 5: Public Accountability (Government Accountability to the Public)

Challenge: Ensure Government is more accountable to citizens

Context:  On a national and international level, Scottish Government tracks and proactively publishes the Nation’s progress against a broad sweep of performance indicators through Scotland Performs. The data sets that support that system will also enable the development of a framework to track progress against the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is also a need to take a balanced approach to improving the accountability of our vital institutions, such as the justice system and courts as well as for outsourced services.

A modern political system needs people and organisations from outside government and parliament to take the time to speak to and inform people about public policy. Some people and organisations may be paid as professionals to do so on behalf of others, representing either collective or individual interests. It is important for our democracy that this critical function is open and transparent and is protected from suspicion or misuse.


Theme 6: Technology and innovation

Challenge: To harness technology to build the capacity of citizens to participate more directly in the decisions that affect their lives.

 Context: Technology is fast becoming an essential tool to participate fully in our society and democratic processes, but the pace of change leaves far too many people behind. If we want more people to be empowered to participate in Scottish society, then we will need to invest in the capacity of more of our citizens to participate through technology in the decisions that affect them.