Imagine a country where decisions are honestly made, transparent and accountable, and where policy-making processes enhance people’s participation and connection on the issues that matter most to them. We live in uncertain times but one thing is clear; the success of our democracy will shape the type of society that the people of Scotland want it to be.
As new technology emerges and disruption is caused by political events, people in Scotland and across the world are asking to play a more active role in how their governments can work best for them. They’re calling for greater roles in the design and delivery of public policies and services through new and innovative ways.
Scotland’s place in the global Open Government Partnership is providing a platform for members of the public and civil society organisations to work with the Government in responding to these calls. It brings the specialist knowledge and skills of Government together with the experience of people and civil society organisations to agree how our democracy should progress and the ways this can be achieved.
The Scottish Open Government Network coordinates the involvement of citizens and organisations in these discussions with the Scottish Government. Together, we are embarking upon a fresh opportunity to improve how government works through developing Scotland’s second Open Government Action Plan.
This briefing presents a summary of open government in Scotland, alongside the process for developing Scotland’s 2018-20 Open Government Action Plan and the issues that have been discussed by Scotland’s Open Government Network and with Government over the past few years.
What is Open Government?
Think about your average day. Perhaps you woke up at home, travelled to work and then picked up the children from school. Not a typical day for everyone, but the actions that government takes help make all this a reality. Who funds that new housing and who hands out the contracts to develop the schools, roads and trains we use?
Government uses public money to develop the society we live in. The decisions it takes impacts on all our lives. Open governments do not just allow us to see what decisions are made, they allow us to take part in shaping them and provide us with the information we need to examine and challenge their choices.
They make it easier for you to play a watchdog role and use your experience as citizens to help shape the infrastructure and services they deliver – the things you use!
The public need to be well informed about public money and resources and the decisions government makes. That’s vital if we’re to play this more active role. But open government isn’t just about information. Open governments make sure they work closely with citizens to achieve outcomes that work better for us all. It’s not only about citizens being able to play a more active watchdog role, it’s about making sure that citizens are invited to be part of the original decision-making process.
An open government is one that shares information, empowers people to hold their actions to account and supports people to take part in the decisions over public policies and services that affect them.
What is the Open Government Partnership?
Last year, Scotland was accepted to be part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This handed Scotland a unique opportunity to show itself as an exemplar for what can be done and what all countries should aspire to when delivering democracy.
The OGP is a global initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen how it works. At the heart of each country’s participation is an Action Plan developed in collaboration with civil society. These action plans translate the political will demonstrated when a country like Scotland joins the OGP into concrete action.
As part of the OGP, governments must give citizens the opportunity to play a part in decision making. It is a partnership between governments and their citizens. But it’s not just inclusiveness that matters, as citizens are expected to have more control over the entire process, from defining problems in their communities through to implementing solutions.
Scotland’s involvement in the OGP gives us the opportunity to refocus our attention on trust between citizens and government, and to champion values of equality, inclusion and participation to decision makers.
Scotland’s first Action Plan, signed in Paris in December 2016, set out how the Scottish Government would use the OGP to improve the lives of Scotland’s citizens. Scotland’s second Action Plan gives us a fresh opportunity to take this discussion forward.
Being a member of the OGP is a promise from government to challenge itself in relation to how it works better for people. Scotland’s next Open Government Action Plan provides the clearest opportunity to collaborate with government to shape the future of how our Government works.
What are we doing in Scotland?
Scotland’s Open Government Network has been working with the Scottish Government over the past 18 months to deliver Scotland’s first Open Government Action Plan, part of our country’s promise as a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to work with citizens and civil society to make government work in a more transparent, engaging and accountable way.
With the 2017 plan having come to an end, we are beginning to develop and launch the 2018-2020 open government action plan. The Network and the Scottish Government will co-create the next action plan, which is at the core of Scotland's participation in OGP.
The action plan will contain between three to five commitments and will be the product of a participatory process which enables people to help develop effective commitments that matter to them.
Working with the Scottish Government, we are developing the best possible process for the 2018 – 2020 OGP Action Plan to be delivered in an open, transparent and inclusive way, which delivers effective change. This will help Scotland’s Action Plan to focus on significant national priorities and ambitious reforms, ones that are relevant to the values of transparency, accountability, and public participation.
You do not need to be an expert to get involved – we are looking for interested and impassioned citizens, community groups and civil society organisations who want to have a say and offer their ideas on how government at a local, regional and national level could be done better and in a more open way. That applies for anyone interested in supporting the process of creating the action plan or contributing to the content.
What have we been saying?
While Scotland’s second Open Government Action Plan provides a new opportunity to for civil society and government to develop new ways for bringing a more open government to Scotland, we are not approaching this from the beginning. Drawing on the input gathered at meetings and events held by the Network and Government since 2016, we have a good idea of what people are calling for.
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