Book chapter about participatory budgeting in Scotland and its interplay with public service reform, community empowerment and social justice.


The open access ebook Hope for democracy: 30 years of participatory budgeting worldwide is the largest collection of articles about participatory budgeting (PB) on a global scale.

One chapter outlines key lessons from the Scottish experience so far. Participatory budgeting in Scotland: The interplay of public service reform, community empowerment and social justice was co-written by members of the PB Working Group, which works with civil society and the Scottish Government to inform and advance the development of PB. The chapter is the result of collaborative work by a range of partners supported by What Works Scotland.
"There are potential frictions between the democratic innovations of participatory democracy and established institutions of representative democracy, We must think carefully and strategically about how to couple these different principles and practices in order to strengthen democracy."
The authors highlight how PB has become central to policy action that aims to advance community empowerment and public service reform. The chapter shows the importance of the interplay between civil society and government in opening a window of opportunity for this democratic innovation.

They conclude that the mainstreaming of PB which is now under way in Scotland, carves up space for more complex participatory participatory and deliberative processes to decide on core local government budgets. However, for PB to make a substantial difference in the lives of citizens and communities, democratic innovators (i.e. politicians, activists, public servants) across Scotland will have to overcome challenges related to culture, capacity, politics, legitimacy and sustainability.

They identify two particularly important, and interrelated, areas for improvement in Scotland’s next phase of participatory budgeting; the need to increase the deliberative quality of PB processes and strengthen their focus on tackling inequalities.

They also identify issues facing this next phase including the requirement for properly resourced teams of participation practitioners and community organisers to support deliberative quality and the challenges in the relationship between PB and the institutions and practices of local democracy.

The chapters include a focus on global, scaling up and thematic dynamics along with regional surveys of participatory budgeting in Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

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Date of publication: July 2018


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