The Scottish Government set out on a journey to hold a ‘national conversation’ on how to create a fairer Scotland. They wanted to do things differently than the usual consultation of experts and stakeholders. They wanted to listen to people up and down the country and hear their ideas, thoughts and experiences on how to make the country a more equal place to live.

The Democratic Society worked with the Scottish Government to design and run eight deliberative events across Scotland to enable the public to express and develop suggestions for how to make Scotland a fairer place by 2030. There were other elements to the national conversation and overall 7000 were involved.

Location of planning events

The Democratic Society team of trained facilitators acted as independent and neutral voice to hold the conversation and report detail at these events which brought to the same table a broad mix of people from a variety of backgrounds. The ideas people generated at each event were discussed and amended in more detail by other participants up and down the country, in order to create a joined up, national and public conversation about future social justice policy. Participants also prioritised ideas to indicate to the Scottish Government which policy suggestions should take precedence.

Over 320 ideas were generated and more than 220 people attended the events. We worked in consortium with The SCDC Scottish Community Development Centre to reach grassroots networks and with The Electoral Reform Society to monitor the demographics of those attending to ensure fair representation of “the people of Scotland”. By the end of the deliberative process participants had distilled all the conversations down to 93 ideas, across eight themes.

The final set of ideas ranged from specific requests, such as making benefit assessment available in more local areas, to large-scale ambitions, such as ensuring adequate provision of health services for all, regardless of postcode, age, or circumstances. The list included ideas that originated from every event across the country.

94% of participants thought the events were a good way for the Scottish government to seek people’s views; and 94% of participants felt able to discuss issues that mattered to them. Comments included:

“more public consultations should be (this) participative”

“the event was unique in its format of inclusiveness and openness. Nice to feel listened to for a change”

All the ideas and discussions, as recorded by the Democratic Society, were pulled together by Scottish Government’s Social Justice Policy team in drawing up an action plan report in response. The Democratic Society is keen to that the process demonstrate how people’s involvement has impacted government policy. The Scottish Government’s  Fairer Scotland page provides more information about the process.

The Action Plan was launched in October 2016 as the initial response with 50 actions to help ‘tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland’ Read the Action Plan here:

Front cover of the action plan

These events were a different way of doing government. Rather than writing a long white paper and looking for your comments, the Scottish Government wanted to create our policy with the people of Scotland. These events happened across the country: from Stornoway to Dumfries, bringing together hundreds of people to work through ideas and policy proposals, and bringing in an even bigger audience online. This was an innovative approach: we hope the Scottish Government and others have seen the success of this process and this sets the standard to do further consultations in a similarly engaging and participatory way in the future.

If you would like to find out more about our facilitator team, our process of holding a dispersed conversation and deliberative and prioritisation exercises get in touch with our Scotland team: or @DemsocScotland

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