Last week I had the opportunity to speak to the Commission on Parliamentary Reform, at the Scottish Parliament, about opportunities for widening and deepening public participation in parliamentary processes.
This independent Commission was set up in October 2016 to look at how Parliament can engage better with the people of Scotland and how its work can be improved to deliver better scrutiny. Working under the title ‘Your Parliament, Your Voice’ the focus of the Commission’s 3rd meeting was on the importance of increasing public engagement. A panel of academics and practitioners, Involve among them, were invited to present their approach to this challenge.
Joining me on the panel were:
Starting from Involve’s commitment to creating opportunities for the participation of citizens in the decisions that affect their lives, I chose to focus on the potential of involving the wider public more in the work of Parliamentary Committees: taking a practical approach to exploring the challenges faced in engaging more widely as a Committee in meaningful and purposeful ways. Rather than focusing on the methods and mechanisms they could use however, I concentrated on the importance of seeing engagement as a process, and a process that should always start from questions of Why? Involve’s background paper submitted to the Commission exploring these issues can be found here.
A rich and absorbing discussion with Commission members followed our opening presentations and cut across a wide range of subjects including:
Time permitting, the discussion could have continued for far longer. Hopefully however it has left the Commission with lots to consider as they continue to investigate just how the Parliament can best increase and strengthen its engagement with the wider public in on-going and meaningful ways.
The full text of the background papers prepared by the other panelists can be found here.
Picture Credit: Luc Legay (Creative Commons 2.0)