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Action plan – Scotland, United Kingdom, 2021 – 2025

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Action plan – Scotland, United Kingdom, 2021 – 2025

Action Plan Submission: 2021
Action Plan End: November 2025

Lead Institution: Directorate for Local Government and Communities, Directorate for Healthcare Quality and Improvement, Directorate for Digital, Scottish Exchequer, Directorate for Energy and Climate Change

Description

Duration

November 2025

Date Submitted

16th November 2021

Foreword(s)

As co-chairs of Scotland’s Open Government Partnership, we are pleased to publish our third National Action Plan (NAP). This NAP builds on the progress made through Scotland’s first and second NAPs, and sets out our most ambitious Commitments yet. This reflects our belief that Open Government plays a key role in creating an open, transparent and accountable government; strengthening public trust in our institutions, producing better public service outcomes, and a better quality of life for everyone.

We welcome the continued focus on Financial Transparency, Participation and Open Data. We have made significant progress in these areas through previous NAPs, but recognise there is more to do – we are confident that these Commitments will continue to drive improvement. Each of these elements are crucial to ensuring that decision-making is open and accessible to the people of Scotland; that we recognise the value of, listen to, and act on perspectives outside of government; and that we enable meaningful public scrutiny.

Tackling the Climate Emergency and improving Health and Social Care are huge challenges faced by government. We believe that working in the open, in partnership with Civil Society and the people of Scotland, will improve outcomes and build public trust for these programmes of work. We are therefore delighted to include Commitments on these issues in this plan.

We are also delighted that these commitments present an opportunity for the Open Government Network to expand, collaborating with and learning from the wide range of stakeholders involved in these areas.

Scottish Government and COSLA officials, Civil Society partners and people across Scotland have contributed to the development of this plan. Retaining this spirit of collaboration and partnership working throughout the delivery of this NAP will be crucial to its success, and we look forward to developing these relationships across the next four years.

Lucy McTernan and George Adam

Open Government Challenges, Opportunities and Strategic Vision

This subsection details the Open Government Strategic Vision in your local area that should guide the commitments for the action plan period.

What is the long-term vision for open government in your context and jurisdiction?

Scotland’s Open Government partners aspire for our country to be world leading in our approach to transparent and accountable governance. We believe that an open approach is required to strengthen public trust in our institutions, produce better public service outcomes and a better quality of life for everyone in Scotland.

The importance of trust in government has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We recognise that considering and applying Open Government values helps to focus thinking on how Scotland is governed, and that this can positively affect the development and maintenance of trust across society.

Throughout the co-creation process, people have told us that their priority is implementing existing strategies and delivering on current commitments, rather than creating new initiatives. Using Open Government principles to do this in a transparent, accountable and participatory way will be a central theme of this NAP’s long-term vision for Open Government.

This includes supporting the delivery of commitments to human rights, including those of children and young people, by seeking to put people at the heart of government reforms, mainstreaming equalities and empowering communities. Open Government values (including use of participation, digital and data) will be applied to the Scottish Government’s manifesto and Programme for Government commitments, to COVID-19 Recovery, Health and Social Care reforms, and tackling the Climate Emergency.

What are the achievements in open government to date (for example, recent open government reforms)?

Scotland’s first NAP helped to drive the roll-out of Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Scotland, including agreement to the target of at least 1% of local authority budgets being subject to PB. It also initiated work around financial transparency and performance measurement, aligning Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and including openness and transparency as NPF values.

Scotland’s second NAP built on the first, developing the financial transparency theme further. This included publishing Scottish Government contract documentation and procurement-related spend, embedding Open Government principles in the new National Investment Bank, and making the budget easier to understand. This NAP also delivered improved access to information, through publishing all datasets underpinning the NPF in open data format and increasing the number of datasets available for small areas. Open publication of COVID-19 management information has enabled the development of interactive data dashboards.

Scotland has tested a range of methods to involve the public in decision making, including two Citizens’ Assemblies, online platforms to support Participatory Budgeting and Crowdsourcing, and the Scottish Approach to Service Design. Learning from these activities fed into the development of a Participation Framework, which is designed to guide good practice across government in open policy-making and is now being rolled out.

What are the current challenges/areas for improvement in open government that the jurisdiction wishes to tackle?

During the last year, the profound and uneven impact on society, rights and freedoms caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need to ensure people in Scotland can participate in the decisions that affect them, as individuals and in communities.

As we emerge from the pandemic, Scottish Government is committed to focusing on Covid Recovery to tackle the wide range of impacts experienced. This includes a focus on human rights, equality, inclusion and participatory democracy, to allocate resources and deliver Covid Recovery in an open, accountable and person-centred way that builds and maintains trust. This partnership believes that applying Open Government principles to these priorities can support and strengthen government action.

The urgent need for action to address the Climate Emergency is also a priority. To achieve the system-wide transformation needed to become a net zero nation, it is crucial that stakeholders, communities, and people are aware of the global climate emergency and Scottish Government climate change policy, that everyone understands how it relates to their lives, and everyone is able to participate in its delivery. Participation is key to ensuring Just Transition, that everyone is bought-in to Scotland’s climate ambitions and everyone is part of the collective effort required.

Additionally, there remain opportunities for improvement within the areas of Financial Transparency, Open Data, and Participation.

What are the medium-term open government goals that the government wants to achieve?

In the medium term, the Action Plan focuses on practical steps that begin a process of meaningfully embedding Open Government principles of transparency and accountability, through the Commitment on financial transparency; on enabling engagement and transparency through open data; and on participation across the work of government to improve democratic engagement and access to decision making, particularly in relation to Climate Change, and Health and Social Care.

This will be achieved by focusing activity on the problems we are facing and the priorities initially identified. Milestones outlined at the time of this Action Plan’s publication are initial. Into the medium and longer term, new milestones will be collaboratively developed in an iterative and responsive way, to reflect emerging priorities.

How does this action plan contribute to achieve the Open Government Strategic Vision?

This Action Plan focuses on promoting Open Government values across three policy areas which the co-creation process identified as priorities for civil society and government: Financial Transparency, Climate Change, and Health and Social Care. A further two Commitments will enable Open Government work across these policy areas and wider Scottish Government work: Participation, and Data and Digital.

Including commitments on Climate Change, and on Health and Social Care, provides an opportunity for Open Government values to directly impact the delivery of some of the Scottish Government’s most high profile and wide-ranging strategies, improving accountability and participation in these areas.

The Commitment on financial transparency looks to provide better access to fiscal data and information, increasing the accessibility, usability and presentation of information about the public finances, to enable better understanding and scrutiny for a wide range of users, including the public.

The two enabling Commitments (Participation, and Data and Digital), are vital to supporting the other Commitments in the plan and wider Covid Recovery work to transform government.

How does the open government strategic vision contribute to the accomplishment of the current administration’s overall policy goals?

The Scottish Government is committed to human rights and taking a person-centred approach to COVID-19 recovery. This NAP incorporates priorities identified through the co-creation process across financial transparency, Climate Change, and Health and Social Care reforms, in a way that applies Open Government principles through the use of Participation, and Data and Digital.

This NAP includes actions on current priorities, such as:

  • greater openness, transparency and empowerment through open data
  • incorporating innovative participation through user-centred design in Health and Social Care reform
  • making routine the use of Citizens’ Assemblies (including for under 16s), and other forms of participation that offer deliberative and inclusive ways of involving communities and people

Other areas in which this NAP contributes to the achievement of the current administration’s overall policy goals, and where there are opportunities to embed Open Government principles within the Plan period, include but are not limited to:

  • Review of the Community Empowerment Act
  • Review of the National Performance Framework (NPF)
  • Local Democracy Bill, stemming from the Local Governance Review
  • Human Rights legislation
  • Digital Strategy, and Ethical Digital Nation
  • Just Transition

As much of this work is at an early stage, details on Open Government activities and identification of relevant milestones in these areas will be collaboratively developed during the course of this Action Plan.

Engagement and Coordination in the Open Government Strategic Vision and OGP Action Plan

Please list the lead institutions responsible for the implementation of this OGP action plan.

  • Directorate for Local Government and Communities
  • Directorate for Healthcare Quality and Improvement
  • Directorate for Digital
  • Scottish Exchequer
  • Directorate for Energy and Climate Change

What kind of institutional arrangements are in place to coordinate between government agencies and departments to implement the OGP action plan?

The Open Government Steering Group, Scotland’s “multistakeholder forum”, brings together leads from each of the Commitments on a quarterly basis. This ensures that each area is well sighted on the progress and actions of the others, and can make appropriate connections and input as required.

Between these meetings, the Open Government Team and Civil Society Network act as coordinating points between the different teams and organisations involved in delivering this work, identifying synergies, opportunities, and bringing areas together when appropriate.

In addition, the Open Government Team (within Scottish Government) meets with officials from the UK Government and devolved Governments within the UK, to support coordination of Open Government work across the UK.

What kind of spaces have you used or created to enable the collaboration between government and civil society in the co-creation and implementation of this action plan? Mention both offline and online spaces.

The co-creation of this action plan took place entirely online, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Open Government Steering Group, made up of 50% Government officials and 50% civil society representatives, oversaw this process.

Conversation with the public around the plan was initiated through the Scottish Government’s online ideation platform, “Dialogue”. This opportunity was advertised on Twitter, on Scotland’s Civil Society Network Forum, and shared with groups by email.

Following this crowdsourcing exercise, Democratic Society was contracted to deliver a series of public workshops. Five workshops explored each of the five themes identified as potential area of focus for the Action Plan. A sixth workshop was aimed specifically at young people. Reports from these workshops were published, and formed the basis for the commitments that now feature in the Action Plan.

Commitment leads convened working groups to design each Commitment, involving relevant individuals from government, local authorities, public bodies, and civil society. The Open Government Team supported these working groups to develop collaborative ways of working, to identify problems and solutions around which they could build their Commitments.

Two online roundtable discussions were also held to consider the strategic direction for Open Government in Scotland. Relevant civil society stakeholders were directly invited to each of these events, with civil society partners helping to identify invitees.

What measures did you take to ensure diversity of representation (including vulnerable or marginalized populations) in these spaces?

Those who signed up for the online workshops were asked their age group, ethnicity, gender, level of knowledge about Open Government, and what sector they worked or studied in. This information was monitored, and additional measures were taken to publicise the event to under-represented groups, primarily through representative organisations.

Who participated in these spaces?

The majority of people who participated in the spaces provided for open dialogue (the Dialogue platform and the public workshops) did so as individuals.

Groups which were represented through the roundtables and working groups included:

  • Strategic Development Goals Scottish Network
  • Human Rights organisations
  • Disabled Peoples’ organisations
  • Universities
  • Racial Equality organisations
  • LGBT organisations
  • Democracy organisations
  • Carers organisations

How many groups participated in these spaces?

30

How many public-facing meetings were held in the co-creation process?

6

How will government and non-governmental stakeholders continue to collaborate through the implementation of the action plan?

The delivery of each Commitment will be overseen by one government and one non-government Commitment lead, who will report on progress to the Open Government Steering Group. Each pair of leads will identify a governance process appropriate for their commitment, but will be encouraged to retain a multi-stakeholder style working group to oversee delivery.

Please describe the independent Monitoring Body you have identified for this plan.

An independent reporter will be commissioned to ensure it is possible to track progress of the Action Plan, and to continue to compare that progress with other Open Government Partnership members.

This contract will be with the Scottish Government, but will be developed and overseen by a subcommittee of the Steering Group, made up of equal numbers of civil society and government representatives. This will help ensure transparency and credibility of the reporting.

In addition to an appointed independent reporter, there will be rigorous and regular self-reporting (at least twice a year) to the Steering Group. This will be published on the Open Government web page.

Scottish Parliament will also monitor progress on Open Government as part of an expanded set of duties for the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

Provide the contact details for the independent monitoring body.

 

What types of activities will you have in place to discuss progress on commitments with stakeholders?

Regular Steering Group meetings will provide a formal process for reviewing progress on Commitments with stakeholders. Milestones identified by each Commitment will be the key mechanism for this. Each of the Commitments will have working groups through which government and civil society collaborate to oversee implementation and the development of additional milestones as the Action Plan progresses.

Steering Group meetings will also be informed by a monitoring and evaluation framework that will be developed in collaboration with each Commitment, providing indicators to measure the extent to which a Commitment’s strategic aims are being achieved. Commitment milestones will form part of this, as will additional quantitative and qualitative data relevant to the activities and their intended aims.

Civil Society and government will work together to maintain a healthy civil society network around Open Government in Scotland. This network will also be involved in monitoring the progress of Commitments. This will include pro-actively identifying existing and upcoming cross-cutting strategies and policies that will be engaging stakeholders, who could in turn be involved in the network.

How will you regularly check in on progress with implementing agencies?

Steering Group meetings will be held at least quarterly each year, and will provide an opportunity to check in on progress with implementing agencies. In addition to this, a monitoring and evaluation framework will provide background information on the extent to which a Commitment’s aims are being achieved – this will be updated whenever a milestone is due to be completed, or new relevant data is available.

How will you share the results of your monitoring efforts with the public?

The minutes of all Steering Group meetings will be published online. The monitoring and evaluation framework will draw on publicly available information, or will publish new information. Updates on this framework will be published on the Open Government pages of gov.scot after each Steering Group meeting.

Endorsement from Non-Governmental Stakeholders

  • Lucy McTernan
  • Jack Lord
  • Juliet Swan
  • Dawn-Anne McAneny
  • Alex Stobart
  • Angela Gracie
  • Dave Beck
  • Annie Cook

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