February 9, 2017 : Paul Bradley

Four reasons why open government matters to you

SCVO Open Government Coordinator on ways to achieve accountability, participation and transparency

If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you’ll probably be aware of Scotland’s special status within the global open government movement. For those less familiar, however, I really want to put across why this matters to you!

Last year, Scotland was accepted to be part of the Pioneer Tier of the Open Government Partnership. This handed Scotland a unique opportunity to show itself as an exemplar for what can be done and what all countries should aspire to when delivering democracy.

I’ve since joined SCVO as Project Coordinator for Open Government. We’re involved because we see that in order to deliver a more open government here and on the global stage, Scotland’s third sector must play its part in building the movement.

I want to work with you over the next couple of years to do just that. This is an exciting time and I need you to be excited too! Countering alternative facts and newspeak is one thing, but open government is about so much more – accountability, participation, innovation and transparency.

Here’s four reasons why the open government agenda matters to you:

1. A way to hold government to account

Scotland’s first Action Plan, signed in Paris in December, sets out how the Scottish Government will use the Open Government Partnership to improve the lives of Scotland’s citizens by focusing on five commitments:

  • Greater financial transparency
  • Improved measurement of Scotland’s progress
  • Delivering a fairer Scotland through the Fairer Scotland Action Plan
  • Empowering communities through participatory budgeting
  • Increasing citizen involvement in local democracy


governments have an obligation to give citizens the opportunity to play a part in decision making

Progress will be evaluated independently to see whether they have been fulfilled, providing us with a chance to hold government to account on issues that matter to people and communities. Whether that’s delivering on the themes and actions set out in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan – from homes and communities to early years, education and health – or securing greater transparency in the budgeting process, open government can ensure these agendas are not lost or deprioritised.

2. A chance to stand out 

As part of the Open Government Partnership, governments have an obligation to give citizens the opportunity to play a part in decision making. But it’s not just inclusiveness that matters, as citizens are expected to have more control over the entire process, from defining problems in their communities through to implementing solutions.

These principles form a perfect link between Scotland’s third sector and the open government agenda. That’s because they already exist at the heart of much of our work with people and communities, as we champion approaches that are more responsive to their needs.

3. An opportunity to lead the way 

From shifting attitudes towards wellbeing in our approach to policy making, to drumming up creative ideas at hackathons, Scotland’s third sector is open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. We should use the open government platform to champion further innovation in our democratic processes and institutions, looking to our global partners for solutions to build more genuine engagement. From Mexico to Madrid, we can work with other civil societies committed to empowering citizens through challenging traditional views of how politics is carried out.

4. A way to build trust

We are seeing the polarising of public attitudes intensify across the world, none more noticeable than with Brexit, Trump, and the Presidential race in France. Trust in politicians is low, and fake news is on the rise. Scotland’s involvement in the Open Government Partnership gives us the opportunity to refocus our attention on trust between citizens and government, with the third sector well positioned to champion values of equality, inclusion and participation to decision makers.

The open government movement is a priority area for me and SCVO over the coming year. If this has got you excited, then join us at one of our open government events at the Gathering to find out more. You can also get involved through our collaborative wiki, by contacting me or following @opengovscot.

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Paul Bradley