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Scotland (region)

Participation name of the implementation at the Dundee municipality: Dundee's voice
Screenshot of the Dundee's voice participation platform
In this best case we will explore how Scotland became one of the best cases of the year 2022. In particular, we will highlight how the partner organisation COSLA contributed to a rapid expansion of the Consul Democracy Software, which is now used in 23 out 32 local councils throughout Scotland.
Installing a long-lasting culture of citizen participation is a challenging task that requires the involvement of different stakeholders, a strong political will, and a strong sense of collaboration within the administrations implementing the participation tool.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) chose the agile and robust open-source Consul Democracy Software to strengthen the local democracy and empower communities. Choosing the right tool for digital citizen participation is a very good first start.
Furthermore, we are convinced that a crucial element to the success of the Consul Democracy Software in Scotland lies in the preparation work that COSLA carried out in Scotland at a higher level. COSLA laid the ground work for a successful implementation of the Consul Democracy Software by broadening the conversation on digital democracy and by contributing to a national framework tied to a political commitment.
The numbers and statements you will see below speak for themselves but first we will present the organisation COSLA.

COSLA and Scotlands's digital strategy

COSLA is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. It is the representative voice of Scottish local government and acts as the employer association on behalf of all 32 Scottish Councils. It’s a councillor-led and cross-party organisation established in 1975. It provides political leadership on national issues, and works with councils to improve local services and strengthen local democracy.
COSLA contributed to the institutionalisation of the Consul Democracy Software as Scotland's tool for citizen participation, in particular for its implementation of participatory budgeting processes.
In Scotland's national digital strategy, the Consul Democracy Software was indeed mentioned as a recommended tool in two areas: 'a digital ethical nation' and in 'transforming government'.

Political commitment is participation's best friend

As we stated above we believe that a key factor in installing a good digital participation culture is a strong political commitment for citizen participation and community empowerment.
In 2017 the Scottish government jointly agreed with COSLA to spending 1% of the local authorities budgets via participatory budgeting processes, bringing decision-making closer to the communities they serve.
Since then local councils have been challenged to involve citizens in significant decision-making processes and shaping public spaces.
In this context, COSLA, who supports Scottish councils in implementing participatory budgets, selected the Consul Democracy Software as the online platform for digital participation and in particular for the implementation of participatory budgeting.
Today we can safely say it was a success. The Consul Democracy Software is used in 23 out of 32 local councils in Scotland.
As COSLA reported, The Community Wealth and Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said:
“Participatory budgeting gives communities the power to make real decisions about how money is spent in their area. I am pleased that £154 million worth of council budgets have been directed towards projects and services that matter most to the communities they serve.”
Consul Democracy Software, Dundee

Topic expansion

As explained above, the Consul Democracy Software main implementations were focused on using the participation platform for one type of process: the participatory budgets of the local councils in Scotland.
The rollout of the Consul Democracy platforms in Scotland began in 2019 and 2020. Tom Clive, a developer at COSLA, initially installed the platform for two Scottish councils: West Lothian and Moray. The projects started small, with one example being a citizen proposal to improve a specific area of Bellsquarry Park in West Lothian, with a budget of £200.
Since 2021, more than 110,000 local people have taken part in participatory processes and directly decided on how £154 million worth of council budgets was spent. This exceeded the 1% target, with a total spend across all councils reaching 1.4% of available budgets.
The success of participatory budgets with the Consul Democracy Software led to expanding digital participation with the Consul Democracy Software to new topics such as the the climate fund.
The City of Dundee, for instance, initiated a Climate Fund Participatory Budgeting of £750,000 in November 2022.

Scotland shares its success with the community

We believe Scotland is a reference and inspiration for the global Consul Democracy community for their contribution to the Consul Democracy Project.
Scotland contributed to the code and its translation into Gaelic and shared these with the open source community.
Scotland also put the Consul Democracy Software to the test to satisfy the Scottish Government’s security requirements and helped advance the conversation on questions such as authentication and identity management.
Finally, COSLA also used the artificial intelligence elements of the Consul Democracy Software to help administrators and users better understand the content created. For instance, they used AI to create the option of a custom page presenting all proposals categorised via tags, linking the proposals to the outcomes of the national performance framework.
References:
This article was written based on an interview conducted by the author with the Digital Participation Manager John Munro at COSLA.
Author: Ingrid Woods
Last modified 2mo ago