JustCitizens members responded to the Government consultation on public participation at the Scottish Parliament by submitting their online feedback
The consultation took a different form to the consultations we previously responded to and was made to be more accessible to the public.
We had an opportunity to view other citizens’ ideas, comments, concerns, and contributions while voicing our own. This is an area of extreme interest to us as we attempt to increase the participation of traditionally marginalised groups in decision-making and public life. We welcomed the 17 recommendations presented by the Citizen’s Panel on Participation and delved deeper into the categories we believe need to be prioritised.
The area we were especially interested in was Community Engagement.
There are many barriers to public participation at the Scottish Parliament: misinformation; time; accessibility of language; and lack of knowledge. All makes participation more difficult. Looking at solutions to this – including bringing the Parliament to the people, promoting engaging information campaigns, language accessibility, and creating opportunities to share lived experiences – can contribute to bringing down those barriers.
We would love to know more about how these suggestions are going to materialise and encourage the Scottish Parliament to use already existing community networks instead of building a new system from scratch. Using spaces such as community centres, public libraries, non-profit organisations, and local networks can provide the Scottish Parliament with many resources in a mutually beneficial way.
Other areas of discussion we felt passionately about were increasing public involvement in parliamentary business and communication/education. We believe that providing a space for the public to have their voice heard throughout parliamentary processes could increase engagement. We thought that the suggestion to provide a space for the public to ask questions and having MSPs compelled to answer them would increase accountability and promote democratic processes.
We also believe that attempts to communicate and educate the public on the Parliament would normalise engagement with political structures, as well as provide the public with understanding around how to make their voices heard. Starting this education from a young age is the key to raising a generation who is aware, engaged, and committed to upholding democracy.
We are excited to see how the Parliament attempts to implement these measures, and welcome further engagement on this issue.
To read our submissions, please see our responses here.