Democracy Matters

Posted: 03 November 2023, in Blog-News

National and Local Government want to empower Scotland’s different places and diverse communities to shape their own futures. Devolving more power to more local levels and into the communities that you live and work in. That is the aim of the Local Governance Review . To achieve this we are considering how powers and resources should be shared between different spheres of government and local communities.  

We recently launched the second phase of a national engagement conversation called Democracy Matters asking individuals, communities and the organisations who support communities to contribute their ideas on what changes are needed to encourage a more local, participatory and inclusive democracy in Scotland. Communities across Scotland have until 28 February 2024 to share their views and we want to hear from as many people as possible.  

1. Early engagement 

You may have been involved in the 2018 discussions which took place in diverse communities across Scotland. Over 4,000 people took part and shared their views on whether their community should be able to take more decisions about a range of public services, and the benefits of a different way of delivering these might bring to their community. 

We received 334 submissions, with many submitted by communities who considered the questions together. Many of these conversations were convened by social enterprises such as Development Trusts, CICs and Housing Associations. Other responses came directly from individuals and a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.  

The message we heard loud and clear during phase one was that people overwhelmingly want greater control of the decisions that affect their communities the most. And that many communities already had the capacity and vehicles to take on and deliver services at a local level using the social enterprise model. They also told us that they enjoyed this deliberative approach to consultation and it was a valuable opportunity to talk about their future with their friends, families and neighbours. A findings report with more detail on what happened during phase one is available.  

2. Summer 2023: resuming the conversation

Based on what people told us during early engagement, we developed an outline for what ambitious new arrangements for community level decision-making might look like. These arrangements try to reflect people’s desire for a vibrant, equal system of local democracy in our towns, villages and neighbourhoods. In this type of democratic future, people understand their rights and communities have the power, resources and capacity to take and deliver significant decisions and services for themselves.  

The second phase of the Democracy Matters conversation was launched on 28th August 2023 by Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning and the COSLA Presidential Team at Linlithgow Community Development Trust.

This phase will deepen the conversation to understand in greater detail what this type of future could look like in different communities. We are asking communities to consider sixteen questions. These questions are grouped into a small number of key themes which people identified as being important during the first phase of engagement: 

  • future powers 
  • representation 
  • accountability 
  • community participation 
  • nurturing community capacity 

It is still early in the process but already communities are putting forward creative and innovative ideas to help design modern and powerful arrangements for community level decision-making often with social enterprises models at the heart.

We know from listening to communities that social enterprises play a critical role in the economic and social development of communities across Scotland. For Democracy Matters to be a success we need your support to help us find the most creative ideas and hear from the broadest array of voices.

For communities and organisations that need help to cover the costs of holding a Democracy Matters conversation, small voluntary organisations and community groups can apply to the Democracy Matters: Community Engagement Fund for grants of up to £300.  Information about the fund and a short application form are available.


Cameron Mellowes, Local Governance Review Team Leader, Scottish Government

If you want to stay in touch and hear more about the process and how you can get involved, sign up to our newsletter, email us democracymatters@gov.scot and follow us @CommEmpower on X (Twitter).