Scotland, United Kingdom

Joined 2016

The following text is from Scotland's application letter, available in images to the right.

OGP Steering Group Chairs
c/o Ms. Kitty von Bertele, Open Government Partnership


29 February 2016

To Open Government Partnership Steering Group Chairs

I am writing to propose Scotland as one of the Pioneers in the Open Government Partnership Pioneer Programme. Scotland is already committed to the principles in the Open Government Declaration and is currently working in partnership with civil society and with the other nations of the United Kingdom to develop a single National Action Plan that reflects the Open Government priorities of the governments of the United Kingdom.

As a nation, Scotland has a strong record of political leadership and commitment to government that is open and accessible. Soon after taking office in 2014 the First Minister said she wanted “an outward looking Government which is more open and accessible to Scotland’s people than ever before”. In what follows I will demonstrate our government’s commitment to leadership, innovation and sharing learning around the open government agenda and will outline the open government journey that Scotland has followed since 1999.

The Journey

A distinctive Scottish way of delivering government has evolved since the devolution of powers to a re-established Scottish Parliament in 1999. The importance of giving a voice to stakeholders and citizens was one of the key principles set out in ‘Shaping Scotland’s Parliament’ in 1998’ and for the time, the systems put in place for both Parliament and Public Services were ground breaking, establishing stakeholder engagement as part of a continuum of participation which is routinely deployed to inform policy development. It also included pre- legislative scrutiny by Parliamentary committees and a Petitions Committee that encouraged direct citizen engagement with Parliament.

In 2007 the National Performance Framework (NPF) was introduced. It sets out a single Purpose and an agreed set of National Outcomes, to give a clear, unified vision for the kind of Scotland we want to see; so that we can provide information on how our actions improve the quality of life for the people of Scotland. A wide range of indicators are used to assess progress towards the Purpose of a flourishing and successful Scotland.

In 2011, to respond responsibly to the global financial downturn our Government commissioned a review of public services by Campbell Christie. The commission he led took a participative approach and their report was responded to by government with a strong commitment to renew Scotland’s public services through; partnership; performance; people and underpinned by a decisive shift towards prevention.

Action on Open Government priority areas

Access to Information

Scotland’s Freedom of Information legislation forms a cornerstone of our ambition to create an open and transparent society, one which encourages civic participation and engagement.

Freedom of information legislation was one of the earliest Acts of the re-established Scottish Parliament. From 1 January 2005 there was a robust statutory Freedom of Information regime that is internationally recognised; it contains extensive regulatory and enforcement powers to be used by an independent Scottish Information Commissioner. Scotland’s Freedom of Information legislation is regularly revised to ensure it remains up-to-date and relevant. This includes developing an incremental approach to proactive publication and extending coverage of the legislation to organisations considered to be undertaking functions of a public nature.

Open Data

Recognising that Open Data can be an “engine for innovation, growth and transparent governance” we have developed an Open Data Strategy for the Scottish public sector. This aligns with our Programme for Government commitment to be “more open and accessible to Scotland’s people than ever before”. The Strategy will help to ensure that Scotland meets European requirements on the publishing of public and spatial data. In addition, it brings:

  • Accountability and transparency in line with open government principles
  • Drives the design and delivery of relevant and accessible public services, particularly digital public services;
  • A basis for innovation – the development of new products and services


The National Performance Framework or Scotland Performs provides a broad measure of national and societal wellbeing, incorporating a range of economic, social and environmental indicators and targets that are accessible to all. It is part of a transformative shift in how policy is made, and is a key enabler of public service reform and government accountability. Aligning the whole public sector around a common set of goals can help support the delivery of lasting collaboration and partnership working.

The data sets that lie behind the National Performance Framework also provide a robust framework to monitor and evaluate progress against the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have a strong record of working with civil society and engaging constructively with citizens to deliver our Programme for Government in an open and transparent way

Our current Programme for Government has three underpinning principles:

  • the need to deliver greater prosperity for our country;
  • ensuring that there is fairness in the distribution of our nation’s wealth, resources and opportunities;
  • and making sure that we encourage and facilitate participation by the people who live in Scotland in the debates

The Open Government agenda is central to the commitments in the Programme for Government on protecting and improving public services and increasing citizen participation. Most of the issues covered by Open Government are devolved to Scotland. In a number of areas we have taken a different approach to other areas of the United Kingdom; these include:-

  • The commitment to participation; both through legislation such as the Community Empowerment Act and the Children and Young People Act; and through our own programmes of reform across public services;
  • The action to go further and faster on proactive publication, open procurement and FOI
  • The commitment to innovate by taking an intelligent and proactive approach to open data and open knowledge
  • The drive to increase citizen participation in policy development and delivery, such as the current work in Health and Social Care integration and through a national conversation to discuss how we can build a Fairer Scotland.
  • The approach taken in Scotland to human rights through the development of the Scottish National Action Plan
  • Our commitment to continue to build and value the partnership of the 3rd, independant and voluntary sector to deliver open government reforms

Innovations in these areas will be reflected in Scotland’s National Action plan, because this work is embedded within teams delivering the actions we can demonstrate that we have the staff and resources who can dedicate time to developing and implementing commitments in partnership with civil society. On Open Government we are working closely with the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations who are coordinating the civil society contribution to open government.

The debate about Scotland's future in recent years has seen a positive renewal of democracy. We are a country with a strong, positive and outward facing identity, determined to innovate and build a strong nation in order to improve the lives of the people who live here. As a government we value and want to build on the high levels of engagement (almost 95% voter registration) and trust that there is in Scotland. And as a country of around 5 million people we see the advantage of sharing experience and insights with peers facing similar opportunities and challenges. We also recognise the value of working directly with the Open Government Partnership to strengthen, improve and enable the co-creation of our open government reform efforts. At the end of the pilot programme we would be happy to mentor another government to share the learning.



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