Why do we want to rethink our democracy?

On the face of it, Scottish democracy works. People exercise their right to vote in a number of different elections and are then governed and represented by those who the majority voted for. Yet this is a very simplistic assessment of the health of our democracy.

An alternative perspective reminds us that in this modern, democratic Scotland, an unacceptably high proportion of our people still live in poverty, and the country still struggles to reduce the massive inequalities gap. From this perspective Scottish democracy doesn’t seem to enjoy quite such rude health after all.

SCVO’s ambition is for thriving democracy with high levels of citizen participation in the electoral process, but also in general governance, service delivery and in civic society at large.At SCVO we’re aiming high – we want nothing less for Scotland than a democracy where the considerable challenges of poverty and inequality are tackled at source, with proper partnership working, and positive change can be delivered for all.

In a truly healthy democracy the views of its citizens are central to the decision-making process, and that process is heldin proximity to those citizens who may be directly affected. The current situation in Scotland is that those all-important decisions are frequently taken in a far off place, with precious little transparency and scantconsultation with the very citizens whose lives may be impacted by the results.

We already know that the very people most affected by decisions supposedly made in their interest e.g. around welfare, the economy, public services or the environment, are the people least able to influence that decision-making process.

This failure to extend true democracy to those Scottish citizens who need it most, simply cannot be allowed to continue in a country where the people have demanded, through the referendum process and beyond, a more equal society.

Key principles

In order to create the kind of society we aspire to, here are four principles that could underpin a healthy, participative Scottish democracy:

  1. At election times a wide variety of social activities should be organised to enable discussion between citizens about the society they want to live in. These activities will shift the focus of democratic debate away from the minutiae of party political policies. Such events were one of the outstanding successes of the referendum campaign and all efforts must be made to encourage and nurture this type of social interaction and debate.
  2. We need parliaments and institutions that reach out to people, inviting them to participate, and providing space for real deliberation and discussion. This twofold approach should involve invitation to attend established institutions of governance and decision-making, but must also see decision-makers holding meetings and events in communities across the country as a matter of course.
  3. At a local level, a process of empowerment must be introduced where local people make decisions about, and drive, the services and plans which affect them and their communities. These services should reflect local priorities, as well as promoting national standards and human rights.
  4. Democracy works best when people come together to make the changes they want in their own communities, and across Scotland. All efforts to support citizens and communities to feel able to participate in effecting change by pooling their resources and creativity must be supported and encouraged.

Parliamentary democracy

Participation in parliamentary democracy currentlyincludes voting in elections, membership of political parties,or direct engagement with politiciansand/or political institutions. True democracy, it could be argued, cannot be achieved in Scotland unless the interaction between citizen and system radically improves and becomes accessible to all.

Voter re-engagement

There is a tendency for political parties to treat voters as statistics and units to be managed tactically. At election time especially, voters are seen as consumers to be targeted with marketing messages geared towards electoral gain rather than public engagement. And even when voters are approached directly (e.g. during door-to-door campaigning), the policies on offer have already been decided.

Compare this to the carnival atmosphere experienced in the last few days of the referendum campaign, when people took to the streets to express their support for one side or the other. This alternative process of political engagement saw citizens setting the pace and the agenda,forcing politicians and the official campaigns to react and even change policy mid-campaign.

Political parties, unlike the broad movements encompassed by both referendum campaigns, focus on swing voters. This usually means tweaking policies to suit a minority of individuals in marginal seats, and a vicious circle starts spinning. The most vulnerable and poorest citizens are already less likely to vote, so when policies are tweaked to be far removed from their needs, they’re even less likely to vote than before.

In recent times, politicians and political parties have struggled to find a strong shared narrative with citizens and communities about the future of the country (although recent increases in membership of some of Scotland’s political parties will surely see all parties adopt a far-improved two-way dialogue with citizens). To foster authentic dialogue and democracy, politicians and political parties must stop those trivial tit-for-tat media soundbites and newspaper headline grabbersso detested by the community at large, and respond instead to the real issues brought to them by Scotland’s citizens.

By adopting these measures, we can truly start to tackle voter disengagement and dismal levels of turnout at election, both of which have become accepted as the norm by political parties and political leaders. The legitimacy of our democracy, when politicians and governments are elected on a 40-50%[1] turnout, and even as low as 20% in some by-elections[2], can no longer be considered valid or sustainable.

Much of the discussion in the run up to the referendum was centred around issues whichdirectly affect people, their families and communities. These discussions were often free from the constraints of party politics. For the first time, up to 4.3 million people in Scotland, a staggering 97% of potential voters registered to votein the referendum, and turnout on the day was a record 84.6%[3].

The importance of the independence referendum to the vast majority of Scotland’s citizens cannot be understated, and the unprecedented participation in the democratic process is living proof of its importance, if ever it were needed. The referendum itself completely bucked recent dismal voting trends, and the campaign introduced whole new swathes of people to the benefits of playing an active role in politics and the decision-making processes of their own country. Can we really afford to lose this level of participation if we are to achieve true democracy for Scotland? Shouldn’t political parties create policies and processeswhich respond directly to the needs and aspirations of the country’s citizens, andwhich are not simply focussed on tactical advantage?

New methods are required to nurture the momentum to re-engage voters in the long-term:

  • A new electronic approach to voting could make the actual process quicker, more efficient, and more accessible. Additionally, wider access to digital information and platforms may lead to greater interaction between citizens about elections and their vote. As was witnessed during the referendum campaign, and beyond, social media provides a vital forum for debating political issues.
  • Those people not normally engaged in politics or the political process may be motivated to vote by others they already trust. On a practical level, local third sector organisations could facilitate community-led peer networks, provide information, support, reassurance and mutual support. The US Nonprofit VOTE programme[4]shows one way of doing this.

An open Scottish Parliament, beyond the politicians

The Scottish Parliament has the potential to be one of the most open and modern institutions in the world. Holyrood is already generally acknowledged as being a welcoming, accessible parliament, in direct contrast to Westminster. The Scottish Parliament’s founding principles were always strong -an emphasis on common cause, collaboration and open decision-making – and it is worth noting the Presiding Officer’s support for a more open and engaged Parliament[5].

However, during chamber debates and committee meetings the working practices of the Scottish Parliament are still mired in oppositional discourse and division. The all-too-commonpractice of partisan heckling and shouting down of opponents actively prevents serious discussion and shared solutions for policy and legislation.

Politicians are frequently perceived as toeing the party line rather than representing the views of citizens. This perception persists despite frequent public consultation exercises run by the Scottish Government, and regular invitation for evidence to be presented to parliamentary committees by professionals and the general public.

A further, and major, barrier to greater public participation in politics is trust, or rather, the lack of it. UK research shows that only 14% of the public trust politicians and only 17% trust government ministers (IPSOS Mori Veracity Index 2011). In Scotland, satisfaction ratings with all party leaders is either just below or substantially below the 50% mark (IPSOS Mori Scottish Public Opinion Monitor June 2014). Given the deep distrust which the public feels for politicians[6], both the Scottish and UK parliaments should be institutions that extend far beyond the walls of Holyrood or Westminster, and the politicians inside.

There are three easily identifiable problems with the current role of parliament in society at large. Firstly, most people see parliament as a distant entity, largely irrelevant to their daily lives. According to the Hansard Society[7], 85% of the public believe they have ‘not very much influence’or ‘no influence at all’over national decision-making (UK level). Secondly, many people simply don’t have the time, inclination or ability to get more involved in politics through the channels of the party political process. And thirdly, those few who are actively engaged across the political spectrum become over-familiar, the usual suspects. This further narrows the debate, creates an in-crowd and closes down access for others.

It is increasingly clear that important decisions affecting real lives are made in advance during closed discussions,well away from public debate. This closed-door decision-making process prevents politicians from active engagement in wider, non-partisan debate and discussion, and results in decision-making processes and implementation of legislation which is neither visible nor open to wider input.

Here therefore, are some proposals to improve our parliament:

  • The Scottish Youth Parliament offers an excellent model which demonstrates what can be achieved when partisan party politics are taken out of policy discussion. The SYT places greater value on each MYP’s experience than their affiliation with a particular party mind-set. The Chamber proper could adopt some of the good practice demonstrated by the SYT.
  • Parliament must be seen to take debates and discussions far beyond the Holyrood building, as suggested by the Presiding Office[8]. A far greater proportion of parliamentary committee meetings should be held in public spaces such as community centres, cafes, village halls, hospitals, shopping centres and community arts/sports venues. As an example, the Education and Culture Committee’s Inquiry into decision-making on taking children into care held various fact finding visits, including meeting with care leavers at Who Cares? Scotland’soffice.
  • Some of the most important decisions made by Parliament involve the Scottish Budget. This creates the sharpest divisions between the political parties. Why not invite a broader discussion about Scotland’s spending priorities? This could be achieved by making the budget-setting process an open public exercise. Budgetary information would be published in an easily understood format, well in advance of the traditional discussion and ratification process in Parliament.

Alongside this, there should also be a greater role for citizen juries, citizen assemblies and a fully-fledged digital parliament.

  • In the same way that members of the public take part in jury service, individuals could be involved in a citizen jury approach to Parliament. This may involve an open second chamber where members of the citizen jury scrutinise new laws and proposed policies. This new process could start by convening a citizen jury to scrutinise specific important pieces of legislation for social equality, human rights and environmental impact.
  • New legislation should be set out in a simple set of easily understood propositions which could be hosted on the Scottish Parliament website. Partner this online presence with social media, discussion and e-petition functionality, and we have the beginnings of a digital parliament. An online presence can provide far greater accessibility for those whose have barriers to attending political debates in situ, including those affected by health conditions and disabilities.
  • Thirdly, in the wake of the referendum and new powers for Scotland, the nation should convene an assembly of ordinary citizens to debate the constitution and further devolution for Scotland. The need for Scotland’s citizens to have a say on the findings and proposals of the Smith Commission is vital. 14,000 people contributed to the Commission’s consultation process and their voices must continue to be heard. In designing such a process, Scotland can adopt good practice, and avoid some of the problems experienced by countries such as Iceland[9] and Ireland[10].

A broader view of democracy

However, democracy is far more than just parliaments and politicians, and SCVO proposes a number of other, equally important ways in which people can participate in and strengthen our democratic processes.

DIY planning

Many important decisions about services and development plans are made daily, particularly at a local level. This kind of planning involves everything from what equipment should be installed in a new play park to how local orthopaedic services are delivered. The test for democracy here is to ensure citizens are at the centre of decisions which effect change in the communities where they live and work.

Current approaches to planning, such as Community Planning Partnerships, do not actually support communities to engage in planning. Instead, the process is centred around public institutions doing the planning for communities. This approach to planning is focussed on making life easier for public authorities, and not focussed on people. It would be a mistake to repeat this approach with the new Health and Social Care partnerships.

Local authorities do already use various mechanisms such as consultation to engage people in decision-making, but these mechanisms are often perceived as public relations or tick-box exercises, while ultimate authority still rests with councillors. Yet the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee itself has acknowledged[11]: “communities tend to view things differently and remain unconvinced their local authorities are indeed seeking to meaningfully engage them or devolve powers down”. When it comes to the decisions, the public are still locked out of debate and are unable to participate properly in democratic decision-making processes.

There should be a focus here on collective, social approaches designed specifically to bring citizens into the conversation, including:

  • Participative budgeting – this approach is where an allocation of public money is handed over to the community. Decisions about what to do with the money are decided on through collaborative discussions, meetings and brainstorming, followed by a vote. The value of this method is that participants are actively involved throughout the entire decision-making process, and their views count on a very tangible level. This process provides access to genuine decision-making, rather than having to choose from a pre-selected range of options offered by officials.
  • There have already been a number of successful pilot initiatives for participative budgeting in Scotland[12], but to date all of them have involved very modest budgets. SCVO proposes that these budgets should be scaled up. To do this we recommend that a minimum (and sizeable) percentage of local spend must be delivered through participatory budgeting processes, and that this is enshrined in statute. The existing Community Empowerment Bill may be the appropriate vehicle to legislate for this recommendation. Additionally, in its submission to the Local Government Committee, SCVO called for 10% of the total public sector spend in each local authority to be assigned to participatory budgeting processes.
  • Oxfam’s Humankind Index is an initiative which works with citizens from areas of greater deprivation and maps out what they value most and what they want to see changed. This model offers a useful engagement tool for those who otherwise have least input into conventional policy-making structures, and is one which could be extended to include an even wider range of views from across a variety of geographical communities and communities of interest.
  • At present, mini-public and citizen juries are initiatives which bring people together to deliberate particularly contentious local issues. The value of these initiatives – as with participative budgeting – is that participants have real power, insight and control over the outcome of their deliberations, and are actively involved in reaching final agreements. This is a very different model to conventional consultation on a pre-determined range of policy choices. These deliberative mechanisms should be adopted not only for significant decision-making, but also for more mundane issues. Attendance by elected councillors in these deliberations should result in action based wholly on community decision-making, and even make a positive change to the practice of toeing the party line.
  • Institutional planning to match the needs of communities must become properly aligned with action and activity already being delivered by local communities. There are myriad voluntary groups, campaigns and projects already making a difference in local communities, and those groups and citizens must be included to inform planning decisions. Public authorities should work with third sector organisations to catalogue these groups and analyse the contribution they are already making to each local area.

Services with people, not to people

SCVO shares the ambition of the Christie Commission on the future of public services:

  • “Recognising that effective services must be designed with and for people and communities – not delivered ‘top down’ for administrative convenience
  • Working closely with individuals and communities to understand their needs, maximise talents and resources, support self-reliance, and build resilience”

Christie Commission (2011)[13]

We want to see more communities being supported to generate their own services. When more professional input is necessary, we want to see local people involved in the joint design and delivery of those interventions which directly affect them.

To make this work, service priorities in local communities should be delivered to national standards, and ensure that these service priorities be set within an international framework of human rights and environmental responsibility. We accept that different postcodes have different priorities. But in a stronger democracy, service delivery will not be the victim of a lottery.

As it is,the majority of Scotland’s citizens don’t have much say or input into the very services which most affect them and their communities. The IPSOS Mori poll[14]commissioned by COSLA found that 82% of those asked said that they would like a greater say in how local services are delivered, while 61% felt decisions about public services were taken too far away from where they live.

  • The current political environment is potentially conducive to change. Government ministers now regularly cite initiatives which seek to build and improve upon assets which people and their communities already possess. There is particular ministerial recognition of the importance of people supporting each other, their social assets and social networks. There needs to be serious financial investment from Government to back up the verbal support of such projects.
  • The Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights (SNAP) in 2013 set out a rights-based approach in Scottish public services based on equality, respect and dignity. These include the Care about Rights (FAIR) model, the EQHRIA Good Practice Building Blocks model, and National Dementia Standards. Many of these models and standards are centred around changing the relationship between professionals, recipients and service planners. Scotland‘s new democracy should follow the route map set out by SNAP.
  • Flagship national initiatives, such as community planning and the integration of social and health care services, should now be rethought to place people and their communities at the very centre of these strategies. The priority of these strategies must be to identify, develop and support processes which bring citizens and professionals together to plan service delivery collectively.
  • Finally, if a greater number of individuals and communities begin to have a real say in local decision-making processes, they may also see value in participating in national democratic processes. But local and national government is not the only route. A broader conversation outside purely party political circles may ultimately detribalise our democracy.

Capacity for community action

For SCVO, as already outlined, democracy is not just about laws and policies. It is also about communities in action. For us, the best way for citizens to shape their lives and their communities is with the support and encouragement they get fromworking together, for each other.

We already know that there is substantial capacity within Scotland’s communities. Statistics based on the Scottish Household Survey found that 1.2 million people volunteer through voluntary organisations. There are an estimated 45,000 voluntary organisations, the vast majority of whom are entirely volunteer-led. This implies that citizens are making a difference to their own lives and communities through a much wider range of channels than is currently recognised by official statistics.

The former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Sir Harry Burns, recently observed that people having control over their lives makes them healthier[15]. There is now a greater understanding of the role which community facilities, such as buildings, meeting spaces, parks and other assets play in supporting community action, and people, to thrive. It is vitally important that we make certain that these community assets, these ‘hubs’or ‘anchors’,are properly valued and made more visible.

In Scotland, the Community Empowerment Bill offers legislation to ease the transfer or purchase of buildings, land and other assets. Government programmes such as the Strengthening Communities Fund and the Climate Challenge Fund directly fund capacity for community-led initiatives. The Big Lottery Fund and its Awards for All programme is gathering evidence on what can be achieved through community-based activities. It is evident that there are already a number of different ways in which community activity is supported.

To build on this:

  • Government resources should be redirected at all levels to support community action with a designated budget. As SCVO stated to the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Regeneration Committee:

“Instead of looking at how we bring people into the local authority or local government to try to influence decisions, we should turn the question round and ask what sort of organised activities public authorities should invest in to enhance local democracy and community action”.

  • A review of the legal and regulatory environment which makes changes to encourage positive outcomes for communities. Planning decisions which make it easier to set up local community projects, legal protection for community activists, and tax incentives to support community action. To achieve a real democracy for Scotland, we must make it as easy as possible for people to take action together.
  • Greater use of ‘social prescribing’. This is where GPs and other medical professionals access a list of social activities which can be “prescribed” for their patients, alongside or as an alternative to traditional medical prescriptions. A pilot is currently underway in Dundee[16]. In this way the capacity of the wider community can be used to support good citizen health.

Land reform

A modern democracy must include fair and equitable ownership of land and major assets. Scotland’s people and communities deserve a far more responsible approach to people’s stewardship of the land they own and live on.

The Land Reform Review Group’s report captures this well, stating:

“The relationship between the land and the people of Scotland is fundamental to the wellbeing, economic success, environmental sustainability and social justice of Scotland and her communities.”[17]

Research by Scotland’s Rural College (formerly the Scottish Agricultural College) shows that community-based ownership of land and major assets is often a springboard to improving community identity and aiding development.[18]

Since 2000, community land buyouts have proved an enormous success in the regeneration of a number of island and rural communities such as Gigha, Eigg, Fintry, Knoydart, Comrie and North Harris. Recent community-led buyouts of land and assets in Neilston, Maryhill, and Castlemilk have shown what can be achieved when this philosophy is applied in urban areas.

A significant problem is that much of Scotland’s land is owned by people or institutions for whom it is purely of speculative financial interest or, at worst, a tax avoidance measure[19]. These landowners often do not have any interest in ensuring that the land works for the communities who live on or near it.

Scotland has already made significant progress in land reform legislation but we need to go further:

  • As recommended in SCVO’s submission to the Smith Commission, Crown Estate assets should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament with a view that they will eventually be managed by communities directly or transferred to community benefit trusts accountable to Parliament.
  • Scotland needs a stronger, absolute right to buy private and public land even if it is not for sale. These land purchases should be triggered where opportunities to make a positive difference for people and the communities in the area far outweigh the private gain for the existing landlord. Any system of checks and balances to determine how this should be decided must involve a participative approach which seeks opinion from the people who live in those areas.
  • In the longer term, Scotland must rethink how taxes and subsidies can influence the way land is used to support people and communities. This might include new annual taxes levied from those who own large areas of land, with tax reliefs for those who use their land to positively support local people, communities and the environment.
  • We need to extend the benefits of community land ownership from rural areas to urban areas. The Community Empowerment Bill currently in the Scottish Parliament offers a start to this process. However, urban assets may be subject to more complex ownership patterns, involving multiple landlords from the public and private sectors. Ensuring transparency of ownership will be key to an urban revolution in opening up land assets to a far greater proportion of town and city dwellers.

Creative social movements

SCVO’s vision for democracy is centred on citizens connecting to create and build great things together. In doing so, they release energy, innovation and a sense of meaning for themselves and their communities. Scotland witnessed much of this energy and community-building throughout the referendum campaign. We aim to encourage more people to become active participants in democratic processes, not merely passive consumers of goods and services.

There are a number of elements currently fuelling creative social movements. Many of these are based around the powerful new ways in which people now connect and collaborate using the internet.

Matthew Taylor of Royal Society of the Arts captures this well:

“Inexpensive platforms such as Etsy and Kickstarter have released waves of human creativity, entrepreneurial aspiration and collaborative endeavour”, but, “Human trust and reciprocity are as important as digital algorithms to the success of these platforms.”[20]

The emergence of easily accessible online business platforms e.g.Etsy for handmade goods, Kickstarter and Streetbank for raising finance, Airbnb for accommodation, and Uber for transport have disrupted existing monopolies and opened up entire industries to people with minimal or no capital assets.

There is awide network of free, creative open spaces throughout Scotland which provide workshops, studios or places to meet, collaborate and create. This network supports a myriad of hobby, sports, arts and environmental groups. Notable examples include Men’s Sheds, Project Ability, Spring Fling Open Studio initiative, Big Tent Festival and Edinburgh Hacklab.

The environmental movement has also changed the way many people interact with the goods and services they consume and create. Community food growing, cycling and walking groups, car-share collectives, cookery groups, and conservation projects, have all inspired and motivatedcitizens to collaborate collectively to protect their environment.

Much of this is based on the free exchange of knowledge, ideas or business models which is supported by the internet. Digital technology can play an important, sometimes ‘disruptive’, role in modern democracy because it increases the ability for all of us to connect with others to share learning, trading and collaboration.

Not everyone has the necessary skills, confidence or resources to access these exciting digital and social developments, and individuals and communities may need support in the early stages. To ensure access for all, the provision of space and creative environments which encourage imagination and mutual support must be sourced and resourced.

  • Let’s learn how collaborative models such as crowdsourcing hackathons[21] can share the way we do business in Scotland. Who are these collaborative communities and what motivates them? How can we best help them share their story?
  • We propose the creation of a nationally branded initiative to give publicity to businesses, schools, universities and colleges which open up their spaces and their tools, equipment, resources and assets to spontaneous community-led groups and activities.

So, how does the third sector fit into all this?

Throughout this paper, we have highlighted how community-based groups and voluntary organisations help citizens channel their contribution to society. The sector engages 1.3 million volunteers and 45,000 organisations[22]. It’s unquestionable – the third sector plays a huge role in democratic society, it:

  • Connects people together to make changes they want for their own communities
  • Supports communities and citizens to campaign for change to be reflected in political decision-making processes, and in policy itself
  • Connects people together to create and deliver things together, thereby increasing confidence and giving citizens space to take more control over their own lives and that of their own community
  • Provides much of the space, infrastructure and point of access through which people can participate in discussions, debates and decisions which affect them.

SCVO wants to secure both recognition and greater support for the role of the third sector in our democracy. We want to:

  • Ensure that charity regulation, tax and legislation enhances the role of the third sector to support people to engage in their own democracy, including the right to criticise bad policy where necessary
  • Ensure that the third sector, alongside trade unions and others, plays a significant role as a key social partner with governments and parliaments to strengthen our democracy, tackle inequalities and ultimately build a successful country.


As witnessed during the impassioned and enthusiastic public engagement of the referendum campaign, there is ample capacity for Scotland to have a strong, vibrant and healthy democracy.

The referendum ignited discussion and debate up and down the country – in living rooms, workplaces and public halls – and resulted in a record turnout at the ballot box. Many of Scotland’s citizens are continuing the conversation about future possibilities for the country, and many are now not content to accept a tired political system which is no longer engaging for most people.

Democracy must meaningfully change people’s lives for the better, and must be seen to tackle the big issues affecting Scotland, such as poverty and inequality. SCVO’s proposes a vision for a new democracy which is firmly centred on a social model, where citizens and communities work together to make the changes they and their communities need. If Scotlandgenuinelyseeks citizen and community involvement in decision-making processes and in setting the political agenda, then our democracy must evolve.

The referendum ignited passion and energy, and gave voice to a movement which demands significant change to the Scottish status quo. This appetite for solidarity, empathy and shared purpose is just too important to lose. We believe that by capitalising on current community engagement and nurturing its growth, public resentment and apathy towards outdated political processes will surely be trumped, and a new democracy secured for all of our futures.


John Downie
Director of Public Affairs
E-mail: john.downie@scvo.org.uk
Tel: 0131-474-8037

Ruchir Shah and Jenny Bloomfield
Policy Department
E-mail: jenny.bloomfield@scvo.org.uk
Tel: 0131 474 8001

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre,
15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB
Web: http://www.scvo.org.uk/

About us

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector.There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 138,000 and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £5 billion.

SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.

As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:

  • has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
  • our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
  • brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland

SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.

Further details about SCVO can be found at http://www.scvo.org.uk/


[1] Scottish Government 2014, Scotland’s Electoral Future Delivering Improvements in Participation and Administration https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/Resource/0044/00448004.pdf

[2] Govan by-election Oct 2013 http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10775

[3] SPICe briefing, https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/Scottish_Independence_referendum_2014_Results.pdf

[4] US Non-profit Vote initiative http://www.nonprofitvote.org/our-mission/

[5] Time for Reflection, Scottish Parliament, 23rd September 2014, http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/81682.aspx

[6] Hansard Audit of Political Engagement 11, 2014. http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/research/public-attitudes/audit-of-political-engagement/

[7] Hansard What’s Trust Got To Do With It, 2010. http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/whats-trust-got-to-do-with-it/

[8] Ibid.

[9] https://opendemocracy.net/thorvaldur-gylfason/iceland-direct-democracy-in-action

[10] https://www.constitution.ie/

[11] Local Government and Regeneration Committee, Scottish parliament, 2014, https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/S4_LocalGovernmentandRegenerationCommittee/Reports/lgR-14-08w.pdf

[12] Examples include:

Govan Participative Budgeting pilot – led by Oxfam, Glasgow Council, and Glasgow Centre for Population Health https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/assets/0000/3145/GCPH_Participatory_Budgeting_FINAL.pdf

Canny wi’ Cash Participative Budgeting project for older people – led by Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council http://www.evoc.org.uk/partnership/change-fund/canny-wi-cash-participatory-budgeting-project/

[13] Scottish Government 2011, Christie Commission on the future of public services, http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/06/27154527/2

[14] IPSOS Mori 2014, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3319/Attitudes-to-local-democracy-in-Scotland.aspx (Commissioned by COSLA for their Commission on Local Democracy 2014)

[15] Harry Burns, interviewed by BBC Scotland, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28390734

[16] Health Scotland, ‘Dundee Sources of Support (SOS) social prescribing and community referral scheme’2012 http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/5916.aspx

[17] Land Reform Review Group, Scottish Government 2014 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Review/land-reform/events/FinalReport23May2014

[18] Scottish Agricultural College 2011 Community Land Ownership and Community Resilience

[19] Scottish Affairs Committee, Westminster, https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmscotaf/877/877.pdf

[20] Matthew Taylor, Royal Society of the Arts 2014 http://www.matthewtaylorsblog.com/thersa/the-power-to-create-in-about-5-minutes/

[21] Hackathons are events where people from very different life experiences, skillsets or industries focus on solving a specific problem – it’s based on a model used by computer programmers. Crowdsourcing uses web and social media tools to get and manage a large number of people’s input to an opportunity quickly and at scale.

[22] SCVO State of the Sector report 2014 http://www.scvo.org.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/research/scvo-scottish-third-sector-statistics/