Local decision-making processes and democracy emerged as a cross-cutting theme throughout 2014 in preparation for the inaugural Scottish Rural Parliament in November that year and was the strongest message arising from the event:
Scotland needs new democratic structures that are decided, agreed and led by communities.
Scotland is one of the most centralised countries in Europe with local authorities 45x the geographical size of the European average. Communities do not always feel able to influence decision-making in their local area or at a national policy level. There was a strong message from the Scottish Rural Parliament that without making fundamental and probably structural changes in Scotland, the impact of our other activities would be significantly impeded.
Radically transforming local democracy is not just an aspiration – it is absolutely vital
The Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy outlines a number of recommendations to transform local democracy. The Commission is not planning on meeting again or pushing for further change. Find out more.
Community Councils are intended to be the bridge between local authorities and communities. However there are some serious concerns about the effectiveness and representativeness of community councils in some parts of rural Scotland. Find out more here.
The Scottish Rural Parliament Action Plan 2015-16
Objective 1: Rural communities are engaged in a productive national conversation about how local democracy can be revitalised, what the nature of democracy is and what structures and activities are best suited to deliver it.
We are seeking:
Further grass-roots debate on local democratic reform which is coordinated and inclusive and which seeks to communicate and build on existing proposals, identifying the next steps for empowering communities and fostering local democratic collaboration.
Active engagement by the Scottish Government in the growing movement for change around local democracy, including addressing concerns about community council powers and budgets, community planning partnerships and the transparency of local decision-making.
Increased understanding and development of participatory democracy as an approach, building on the example and practice of the Scottish Rural Parliament
Engage with relevant partners, including Scottish Government, to broaden and deepen debate on revitalising local democracy:
- Improve understanding of issues around local democracy within rural communities by publishing a pamphlet with a series of democracy-related essays from a wide range of thinkers by January 2016.
- Run a series of at least 20 events in rural Scotland to examine issues of local democracy by June 2016.
- Identify our collective and informed view on the next steps to take towards reforming local democracy by Oct 2016.
Objective 2: Concerns about community councils are addressed.
We are seeking:
Scottish Government to respond to the concerns of rural communities about community councils.
Prepare a statement which reflects the differing views of people in rural Scotland about community councils and submit this to Scottish Government by October 2015, and ask for a formal response to the concerns raised before determining what further action to take.