Open government is a way of making government work better for all of us. It's about making things more transparent and accountable and about finding better ways for all of us to participate in what happens.
This page outlines draft commitments to be included in Scotland's Open Government Action Plan. This is your plan for making Scotland run in the most open and accessible way and it is our chance to make government in Scotland work better.
Together, let's make government act openly, act with integrity and act with us.
What are the pillars of Open Government
Transparency: acting openly
Transparency is about opening up public sector data and information so that citizens can understand and influence how their governments work. According to Transparency International, transparency is about 'governments, companies, organisations and individuals of being open in the clear disclosure of information, rules, plans, processes and actions’ (Transparency International 2009). In this context therefore, transparency is about ensuring openness in how governments and public sector organisations operate. This means having clear and visible processes and procedures that provide easy access for citizens to information on the actions of organisations - for example about public budgets, public service performance, contracts, beneficial ownership, expenditure, lobbying, the development and impact of policy and/or decision making processes. If information is available to citizens and civil society organisations it can enable them to monitor, assess and challenge the performance and policies of the government and become a leverage tool for demanding accountability. However to be really useful information needs to not only be accessible but also relevant, meaningful and actionable.
Accountability: acting with integrity
Accountability, simply defined, is the obligation of one actor to account for their actions. In a government/public context accountability can be understood as part of the trust between the public and their delegated representatives, government, public. This could be about the rights of the public and the roles and responsibilities of government in relation to the distribution of resources and the provision of public services. A fundamental principle of democracy is that people have the right to demand accountability and public actors have an obligation to be held to account.
In an Open Government context this means working both to establish and strengthen institutional forms like anti-corruption commissions, auditors-general, ombudsmen and other regulatory and oversight agencies and developing new initiatives that involve citizens. On a practical level these types of accountability initiatives involve citizens in activities designed to hold public officials and service providers to account for the provision of public services, such as healthcare, education, water, and transport. Such activities could include participatory public policy-making; participatory budgeting; public expenditure tracking; and citizens report cards.
On a national and international level, the Scottish Government tracks and proactively publishes their 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.
Participation: acting with us
Participation is about the public, governments and other public bodies working together. Open Government's commitment to participation stems from the basic principle that people have the right to be involved in decisions and planning the services that affect their lives. The goal is to deepen democracy through public involvement in governance in order to strengthen the integrity and increase the responsiveness of public decision making. Citizen or civil society-led actions (ranging from advocacy campaigns and public interest lawsuits to informal protest actions, shouting and spreading rumours) are a way of demanding participation and can drive change. At the same time a partnership approach aims to develop legitimate and recognised opportunities for citizens to engage with powerholders in informed, structured and systematic ways between election cycles in the belief that this will increase the chances of effecting real change.
Why does this matter
The Open Government movement rests on from the simple premise that transparent public governance, which creates mechanisms for citizen engagement in decision making and holding service providers to account, increases public sector responsiveness. Good open government reforms can transform the way government and public services work, improving their efficiency and effectiveness, preventing abuses of state power and leads to better service delivery for all .
By working together, acting openly and acting with integrity we can therefore create more transparent, accountable and participatory public institutions. This has the power to result in a healthier, happier, fairer, and inclusive society.
What should we do to get a more open government in Scotland
Enabling open government
Before we can act to create a more open government in Scotland, we need to work out the mechanism we can use to put our ideas into action.
Scotland's Open Government Pioneer status requires a set of Open Government commitments which as signed by Scottish ministers at the International Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris, December 2016. The plan needs to be designed jointly by Scottish Government with Scottish civil society.
Scotland's Pioneer Action Plan submitted by Scottish Government can now be downloaded from the Open Government Partnership website.
This could focus on enabling an Open Government in Scotland. It would be great to use this opportunity to make commitments around process - the machinery which will get us onto the tracks we want for a more open government. It would then mark the start of the journey.
Enabling commitments need to be short, sharp and realistic. Here are the proposals that have already been discussed:
- Commit to developing a framework to link together the Scottish Action plan for human rights, the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework and the UN Sustainable Development Goals so we can understand our international obligations and our performance.
- Commit to improving financial information and developing a framework for increasing transparency in the process of financial decisions making
- Commit to greater citizen participation – where people can shape their public services, collectively have more control over their lives and get involved in a movement to secure greater openness in decisions that affect them.
- Commit to implementing the Fairer Scotland action plan founded on dignity and respect to all people
- Commit to work in partnership with stakeholders and citizens to make it possible for 1% of local council budgets to be decided deliberatively by the people directly affected through participatory budgeting
Using open government
These are the sort of actions we can take using an open government where we can make a real difference in Scotland. The kinds of actions we may want to include in a future plan.
The list below follows the framework set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals to give an international perspective and links to issues that affect our everyday lives.
Feel free to add to this list. Remember, it's your agenda!
|What? (Themes)||Link to UN SDGs||Acting openly (transparency)||Acting with integrity (accountability)||Acting with us (participation)||Lead organisations|
|Social justice||Implement Fairer Scotland Action Plan
Publish annual report on Courts and Tribunals
|Open the court data system to public scrutiny|
|Food poverty||Sustainable food production?||Strong anti-food poverty strand in Fairer Scotland Action Plan?|
|Health and care||Develop the Health and Social Care Data Integration and Intelligence Platform
Citizens and Third Sector Organisations work to determine the H&SC data sets they need for their lives and operations.
Civic Society obtain data sets from NHS and IJBs as and when needed to plan services and collaborate with Scottish approach.
Academics work with Third Sector to determine data sets needed from NHS and IJBs.
|Test approaches to develop greater ownership by citizens of their data. Civic society in Scotland work to create person centred services with organisations based on citizens Scottish approach.||Citizens design the new Scottish Social Security System, and work on, consider and present the Options Appraisals e.g. Minimum Income ; Citizens Basic Income ; new SSSS design.
Collaborative Scottish approach to Data Sets e.g. Primary Care ; Third Sector ; Care and a Plan to build and publish.
|Quality education||Deliver active involvement of children and young people in the work of government
Improved citizen engagement in digital development
|Planning amenities||Open Contracting Strategy
Public bodies will publish contract award information
|Adopt international interoperability standard for public procurement||Travelling Scottish cabinet (ministers) to engage communities across Scotland|
|An economy for all||Fair Work Convention|
|Industry and infrastructure||Progress lobbying transparency provisions||Publish a register of controlling interests in owners and tenants of land||Launch open data platform for Government stats|
|Reducing inequalities (social, geographical and digital)||User centered standards for digital engagement|
|Planning public services||Promote National Standards of Community Engagement||Implementation of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015||Participatory budgeting
Open government grants data
|Reusing and recycling|
|Climate action||Robust (Third Report) on Proposals and Policies towards a Low Carbon Scotland|
|Protecting our natural environment|
|Responsive public institutions||Counter Fraud and Anti-Corruption measures||
Extend and remove statutory barriers to Freedom of Information Scotland Act
|Improved presentation of Financial Information|
|Better joint working between institutions and sectors||Proactive web publication of government research and data||Development of a robust framework to align NPF measures, Sustainable Development Goals and SNAP to track progress an improve outcomes||Improve citizen participation in policy development|
- Licensing for UN Sustainable Development Goal icons are with respect to UN Communication guidelines available at http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/news/communications-material/