On the 17th June 2015 the Scottish Parliament passed the long awaited Community Empowerment Bill (Scotland), with a strong focus on devolving power to communities and citizens.
Among a raft of proposals around asset transfer, land ownership and strengthening the role of citizens in the work of community planning partnerships were new ministerial powers that will help encourage the spread of mainstream participatory budgeting (PB). Beyond community based decision making over often very small sums, that operates at the margins of public spending, granted to citizens and community groups, such as in Leith Decides.
Speaking after the vote to approve the bill, Marco Biagi MSP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment said: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities."
Expanding on this during his closing speech at Changing Lives, Delivering Success Community Planning Conference, held in Glasgow on the 26th June 2015, Marco Biagi also said:
"Participatory budgeting, which I have heard about in several contexts today, is a massive opportunity. Not just to ensure decisions are better made, because they are made by the people at the front line. But to ensure that people feel ownership of them, and can be re-engaged to lose any cynicism they have about decision making.
And then be able to go forward and participate in decision-making in all kinds of ways… I have heard ideas out there, perhaps at the cutting edge, about [increasing] citizen scrutiny over how Community Planning Partnerships are working. That was an interesting idea … one that I hope won’t give [delegates at the conference] any nightmares."
The Bill will give local communities the opportunity to be involved in discussions on services with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage, and Ministers will have powers to make sure public authorities involve the citizens of Scotland in funding decisions.
Though participatory budgeting is not specifically mentioned within the new bill, Ministers are granted powers to make regulations over the activities of public bodies "towards promoting or facilitating participation in relation to decisions… include the allocation of… financial resources"
- Full text of the Community Empowerment Bill (Scotland)
- Scottish Government Engage webpage provides context on the bill
- Read Oliver Escobar’s blog on PB and the Community Empowerment Bill
- Read a report in The Scotsman by Marco Biagi MSP