Deliver a Fairer Scotland (SCO0003)
Action Plan: Scotland, United Kingdom Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: NA
Support Institution(s): A range of Scottish Government Teams have contributed to the development of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan - Social Justice Strategy Unit, Children and Families, Developing Young Workforce, Housing, Equality and Human Rights, Social Security. Social Justice Strategy have lead responsibility, however. The following organisations have pledged their support: Carnegie UK Trust Dundee Fairness Partnership Inclusion Scotland Joseph Rowntree Foundation LLoyds TSB Foundation Scotland NHS Health Scotland The Poverty Truth Commission The Prince's Trust Scotland Timewise & Working Families Virgin Money Working Families Young Scot YouthLink
Policy AreasMarginalized Communities, Public Participation, Subnational
Issue to be addressed: In October 2015, the Scottish Government launched a coherent, cohesive plan to bring about a fairer, more socially just country by 2030. Scotland faces a range of challenges related to poverty and inequality, and this plan sets out 50 actions to tackle these issues. Primary objective: To deliver the 50 actions in the plan, bringing about a fairer Scotland by 2030. This first plan contains 50 actions to be delivered by government in this parliamentary term. The actions in the plan were informed by a cross-Scotland conversation, which involved 7000 people across 200 open events in 2015, which sought to engage people about what mattered to them about fairness and social justice. Short description: To deliver the 50 actions in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, with annual engagement with people and communities on progress. We will also agree 50 new areas for action with people and communities for the next parliamentary term. OGP challenge: The initial driver for the Fairer Scotland conversation was the significant discussion about social justice running up to the independence referendum. The people of Scotland discussed openly and passionately the possibilities and the challenges for a more socially just and open society. These conversations were some of the most engaged of the entire Referendum period and both sides offered valuable insights into how Scotland should move forward. The Fairer Scotland conversation was launched to build on the energy of these discussions. 7000 people took part in 200 public events across the country. Each conversation started with a simple question: what matters to you about fairness and social justice in Scotland? The threads of the conversation were woven together into an analytical report and, from there, into an action plan. Thus, while ‘Fairer Scotland’ began as a civic participation exercise, it has become a focused plan. In terms of on-going monitoring, people and communities will be able to feed into an annual report on progress being made re delivery of the plan; the progress report will then be laid before the Scottish Parliament. These actions will help ensure public accountability.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 3. Deliver a Fairer Scotland
To deliver the 50 actions in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, with annual engagement with people and communities on progress. We will also agree 50 new areas for action with people and communities for the next parliamentary term.
1. We will engage with people on progress on the action plan and produce an annual report detailing progress on each of the 50 actions, which will be submitted to the Scottish Parliament (Start date: summer 2017 €“ end date: first report in October 2017)
2. We will actively consult people on establishing 50 new actions for a Fairer Scotland. This will take place in the second half of this parliament via a citizens' forum. This forum will involve many people and organisations who took part in the initial conversations. (Start date: preliminary work in 2018 €“ end date: 2019 / 20)
Editorial Note: According to the action plan, the Fairer Scotland Action Plan will be delivered by 2020.
Overall Objective & Relevance
In October 2015, the Scottish Government launched the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to bring about a fairer, more socially just country by 2030. Scotland faces a range of challenges related to poverty and inequality. A recent Oxfam report, for example, notes that one in five people in Scotland currently live in poverty According to the Scottish Government, after housing costs, 20% of people in Scotland live in relative poverty. Relative poverty is defined as 'individuals living in households whose equivalised income is below 60 per cent of median income in the same year'. Source: Scottish Government (2016) Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: 2015/16 (last accessed 06 September 2017) http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0051/00515392.pdf , while the richest 1% own more wealth than the bottom 50% put together. The report also notes that addressing poverty and inequality in Scotland requires responding to the priorities of people in Scotland, including those in deprived communities Oxfam (2017) Building a More Equal Scotland: Designing Scotland's Poverty and Inequality Commission (last accessed 14 July 2014) http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/building-a-more-equal-scotland-designing-scotlands-poverty-and-inequality-commi-620264 . The Fairer Scotland Action Plan sets out 50 actions to tackle these issues through better public services and social security, the provision of more skills and employment opportunities for young people, more opportunities for flexible, well paid work and greater support older people, among others.
The objective of this commitment has three elements. Firstly, to deliver the 50 actions by 2020; secondly, to engage citizens on progress on the implementation of the 50 actions; and thirdly, to consult them on developing 50 new actions, also by 2020. The focus of the commitment as it applies to the timeframe of the OGP Subnational Pilot Program (by the end of 2017) is on the second of these elements.
The emphasis on public engagement is a critical part of how the Fairer Scotland agenda was conceived. According to the OGP action plan, it initially developed out of the significant discussion about social justice running up to the independence referendum of 2014. The Fairer Scotland discussion was launched in June 2015, with over 7,000 people and 200 organisations taking part in 200 public events as well as significant online engagement (17,500 visitors to Fairer Scotland social media platforms over a nine-month period). Prior to publishing the plan, the government published a summary of the discussion to date Scottish Government (2016) Creating a Fairer Scotland: What Matters tp you- A Summary of the Discussion so far (last accessed 14 July 2017) http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00496638.pdf . As noted in the Action Plan, 'while €˜Fairer Scotland' began as a civic participation exercise, it has become a focused plan'.
In the view of the SCVO, the rationale for this commitment is clear. The development of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan was ground-breaking in terms of engaging the Scottish people. However, the engagement process has since lost momentum, with the plan ultimately being published after a long period of silence on the part of the Scottish Government. The SCVO therefore sees this commitment as an opportunity to re-invigorate the conversations with the Scottish people around the priorities included in the plan Interview with Lucy McTernan and Ruchir Shah, SCVO, 11 July 2017 .
While the implementation of the 50 actions is not directly relevant to OGP values, the two milestones are clearly relevant to the OGP value of civic participation as they seek to engage people in progress on the Fairer Scotland Plan and consult them on the development of new actions, thus giving citizens the opportunity to have their voices heard. However, they are not clearly relevant to the value of public accountability. Although milestone 1 includes a mechanism that requires the government to explain their actions and justify their performance to Parliament, it is not clear to what extent the government is also expected to justify their performance directly to citizens, which is a more direct, public-facing form of accountability.
Specificity and Potential Impact
The level of specificity of this commitment is low. It identifies the relevant actors responsible for implementation from both government and civil society and the milestones also define start and end dates for activities, although for milestone 2 both start and completion dates fall out of the timeframe of the action plan implementation period (December 2016 - December 2017).
Both milestones describe objectively verifiable activities and measurable outcomes/outputs (an annual report for milestone 1 and a citizens' forum for milestone 2). However, milestone 1 does not specify what mechanism the government will use to engage citizens in progress on the plan. The wording 'engage with people on progress' is vague and fails to specify whether the government envisages engaging citizens in the actual monitoring of the plan or in discussions about the plan once it is produced.
Moreover, on their own, the two milestones, contribute to, but do not cover all aspects required to enable achievement of the overall commitment. Thus, while the commitment text states that it aims '(t)o deliver the 50 actions in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan', neither of the two milestones directly address the issue of delivery and implementation of the actions, focusing instead on monitoring and development of actions.
The potential impact of this commitment is minor. While the Fairer Scotland Action Plan outlines a wide range of actions designed to address the issues of inequality and poverty in Scotland, the potential impact of the two milestones amounts to a small step in this process rather than the full achievement of the commitment as stated. Ensuring public participation in the monitoring of the action plan could help ensure that there is greater accountability for achieving these changes, and could re-energise the Scottish public's engagement in social justice issues and in local politics more generally, something which has tailed off since the independence referendum.
However, potential impact is limited by the lack of specificity with regards to the mechanisms which the government will use to engage citizens and the degree of citizen engagement envisaged, as discussed above. Furthermore, the fact that the second milestone falls beyond the timeframe of the action plan further limits the extent to which meaningful impact can be achieved within that timeframe.
Overall, there has been limited progress on the implementation of this commitment. To a large extent this is because there has been no progress on the second and most significant milestone as it falls outside the action plan implementation period. On the other hand, the first milestone has been completed on schedule with the first annual progress report on the Fairer Scotland Action Plan published on 23rd November 2017 http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/11/7078 . The IRM researcher has not received confirmation on whether the report was submitted to parliament for review.
Engagement on progress on the Fairer Scotland Action Plan took the form of a series of nine engagement sessions with representatives from a range of marginalised groups between June and September 2017, including older people, young people, Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, women´s groups, people with learning disabilities and people living in poverty, spread geographically across the country OGP Scotland July 2017 update http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Government/OGP; and http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/11/7078 . These sessions, led by theHousing and Social Justice Directorate, were conducted with a range of organisations involved in the initial Fairer Scotland discussions which fed into the development of the action plan, including the Scottish Older People's Assembly (Edinburgh), People First Scotland (Edinburgh), The Women's Centre (Maryhill), the communities of Maddiston and Langlees (Falkirk), Radiant and Brighter (Glasgow), The Poverty Alliance (Glasgow), Community Activists Panel (Glasgow) and The Bike Project (Shetland).
According to Karen Armstrong from the government´s Housing and Social Justice Directorate, the process for engaging on the progress report was a natural progression from the Fairer Scotland conversations to reach back out to the communities involved. Prior to each session, the government sent each group the list of actions in the Fairer Scotland Plan and asked them to decide which ones they wanted to discuss. During the group discussions, the questions were left open, without a pre-defined set of answers. The government then collated the information and fed it back to each group to verify the extent to which it accurately reflected the conversations. Karen Armstrong noted that one key to the success of the approach was investing time in going out to communities and speaking to people at a time and a place that suited them Interview with Karen Armstrong and Paul Tyrer, Scottish Government, 9 November, Edinburgh .
Whilst recognising the openness of the approach, it is also important to note that the sessions represent a small-scale exercise which did not cover the full range of actions in the Fairer Scotland Plan. Karen Armstrong acknowledged this challenge, especially given that responsibility for implementation of the actions is spread across different government departments OGP Network meeting, 9 May 2017 , noting that the government could have done wider consultation with more time and resources Interview with Karen Armstrong and Paul Tyrer, Scottish Government, 9 November, Edinburgh . Thus, although other parts of government held discussions around the action plan with different groups beyond the formal consultation, it was difficult to ensure that they adopted the same participative approach as her team OGP Network meeting, 9 May 2017 .
Early results: did it open government?
Civic Participation: Marginal
The first milestone commits the Scottish government to engaging with people on progress on the action plan and producing an annual report on progress on each of the 50 actions, to be submitted to the Scottish Parliament. Despite the intention of this milestone to re-energise the Scottish public's engagement in social justice issues, the potential impact of this milestone was rated as minor due to the lack of specificity with regards to the degree of citizen engagement envisaged.
The activities conducted to date as part of this milestone have had a minor effect in creating opportunities for the public to inform decisions, insofar as those who participated in the sessions were able to give their input into how some of the actions outlined in the Fairer Scotland Plan are being implemented. As the progress reports notes:
We remain committed to the value of our fairer Scotland conversations and in the spirit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) principles, have undertaken a series of engagement [sic]. Discussion groups took place across Scotland, testing the impact of the Plan, listening further to communities about the issues they were facing. The discussion groups ran from June to September and included a range of different perspectives. These conversations were well received by those who took part and demonstrate our on-going commitment to co-production of the fairer Scotland project.
Both Pheona Matovu from Radiant and Brighter, a community organisation working with BME communities in Glasgow, and Sandra Martin from the Glasgow Women´s Centre noted that the sessions they attended represented a genuine attempt by the government to listen and engage with their respective communities. Both also confirmed that the government had kept them updated with how the views of participants were taken into account in writing the progress reports Interview with Pheona Matovu, Radiant and Brighter, 7 November, via telephone; Interview with Sandra Martin, Glasgow Women´s Centre, 8 November, via telephone . Karen Armstrong also noted that the engagement process has broadened the pool of stakeholders with whom her team engages, some of whom the government wouldn't previously have engaged with.
Seen from this perspective, the process represents a small step in further opening government and an improvement on the initial Fairer Scotland conversations which, although widely recognised as being transformational in terms of the openness and breadth of discussion, were ultimately criticised for failing to close the feedback loop. According to Lucy McTernan and Ruchir Shah from the SCVO, while much of what came out of the initial Fairer Scotland conversations did feed into the plan, ongoing engagement with people dropped off and the government went back and developed the plan internally Interview with Lucy McTernan and Ruchir Shah, SCVO, 1 November, Edinburgh .
However, it is not clear from the progress report which, or how many, of the actions were ultimately informed by the consultation process. Moreover, as noted by civil society members of the Scotland Open Government Network, beyond the small number of people directly involved in the consultation, there was no wider engagement with civil society on the consultation process, nor any discussion of the methodology adopted. As noted by Lucy McTernan from the SCVO during one of the network meetings: 'it feels like we have retreated a bit, with government going out and asking questions rather than genuine engagement. I would like to see this done collectively and jointly with civil society, rather than just being told it is happening.' Lucy McTernan, SCVO, OGP Network meeting, 9 May 2017
The small scale of the engagement and the limited resources invested further limits the overall impact of the milestone. While Karen Armstrong noted that her team visited 42 areas of government to share their experience and encourage others to adopt a similar approach, the fact that the responsibility for consultation lies with a small number of individuals poses a risk to the long-term sustainability of the approach and risks the exercise becoming a 'one-off project' rather than contributing to broader culture change within government.
As noted above, the potential impact of the second milestone is more substantial, with a focus on establishing 50 new actions via a citizens forum, although the nature of this forum is as yet undefined Interview with Karen Armstrong and Paul Tyrer, Scottish Government, 9 November, Edinburgh . While the action falls beyond the action plan timeframe, the government sees the implementation of the first milestone as laying the groundwork for the next phase of the Fairer Scotland action plan. According to Paul Tyrer, the Scottish Government´s Head of Social Justice Strategy, in contrast to the engagement process on the development of the first Fairer Scotland Action Plan which involved the government devising a set of actions based on what people had said, the vision for the second plan is to conduct more follow-up engagement to validate the information collected and to involve people in the development of the actions themselves so that it is more in keeping with the principles of open government.
Moreover, while not included in the OGP action plan, the government pointed to the participatory manner in which some of the Fairer Scotland actions are being implemented (as opposed to how they are being monitored, which is the focus here). According to Paul Tyrer and representatives from civil society (including Oxfam Scotland Interview with Jamie Livingston and Francis Stuart, Oxfam Scotland, 2 November, Edinburgh and the Child Poverty Action Group Interview with Jon Dickie, Child Poverty Action Group, 9 November, Edinburgh ), the establishment of the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the passing of the Child Poverty Bill into legislation, both commitments under the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, serve as good examples of strong critical partnerships between government and civil society in implementing the plan Interview with Karen Armstrong and Paul Tyrer, Scottish Government, 9 November, Edinburgh .
· This commitment would benefit from the inclusion of a more targeted set of activities, such as citizen panels, to ensure ongoing engagement of citizens in both the development and implementation of specific actions within the Scotland Fairer Action Plan which can be achieved within the timeframe of an OGP action plan cycle. To this end, the government could draw inspiration from the participatory manner in which some of the Fairer Scotland actions are currently being implemented through strong partnerships between government and civil society, as the focus for this commitment in future.
· Much as was the case with the consultation process around the NPF (see commitment 2), the government was limited with regards to its communication around this commitment beyond the small number of people directly involved in the consultation events. As a result, the commitment risks remaining a well-intentioned but isolated, one-off initiative. To strengthen this commitment in future, the government should consider wider engagement on developing and implementing the consultation methodology and integrate this into the broader Scotland Open Government Network process, rather than treat it as a separate track of activities.
· Despite the clear commitment from a number of individuals closely involved in the implementation of this commitment, impact has been adversely affected by the limited resources (both human and financial) invested. In the longer term, the government might consider whether to continue to invest in developing and maintaining a stand-alone process for the Fairer Scotland work or whether to exploit existing channels to ensure that it is more deeply embedded in people´s everyday work within government.
Scotland, United Kingdom's Commitments
Financial and performance transparency
SCO0006, 2018, Fiscal Transparency
open policy making and participation in service delivery
SCO0007, 2018, Capacity Building
improve data use
SCO0008, 2018, Capacity Building
public service accountability
SCO0009, 2018, Legislation & Regulation
transparency and participation
SCO0010, 2018, Citizenship and Immigration
SCO0001, 2017, E-Government
Measuring Scotland’s progress
SCO0002, 2017, Capacity Building
Deliver a Fairer Scotland
SCO0003, 2017, Marginalized Communities
Participatory Budgeting (also known as Community Choices in Scotland)
SCO0004, 2017, Capacity Building
SCO0005, 2017, Capacity Building