On the 14th January staff from Involve, working alongside colleagues from DemSoc, hosted a stakeholder event for the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland programme.
Launched in June last year the Fairer Scotland programme is, in essence, a nationwide civic conversation initiated by the Scottish Government to inform the development of Scotland’s Social Justice Action Plan, due for publication in spring 2016. Over the course of the last 6 months over 7000 people have taken part in more than 200 conversations which, while ranging from informal coffee mornings in local communities to more structured deliberative events, all aimed to identify what mattered most to the people of Scotland in the pursuit of a fairer, more equal society by 2030.
Billed as a milestone in the Fairer Scotland process, this event was designed to mark the transition point between the information gathering that has taken place through the conversations and the production of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan. As such it sought to bring together a broad cross-section of people who had been involved in different aspects of the process to date to:
… and it certainly was a diverse group that assembled in the fine surroundings of Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians that frosty Thursday morning – with participants bringing with them a rich array of experience relating to the needs of people with disabilities, showmen travellers, ex-prisoners, rural and isolated communities, older people, black and minority ethnic groups and impoverished neighbourhoods to name but a few. What struck me however was that, despite the varying interests they had come to represent, the experience of inequality was a very real thing to them individually. This personal connection to the issues under discussion appeared to not only provide their motivation for investing their time and creativity into working towards a Fairer Scotland, but also seemed to foster an openness to the need to improve outcomes for people facing disadvantage in any form. Combined this led to some very lively and heartfelt conversations taking place throughout the day as we explored what success would look like and the role civil society wanted to play in delivering this.
While the report from this event is still being written two things were abundantly clear to everyone present by the end of the day:
The next step for the Scottish Government will be the publication of the Action Plan in spring and we, alongside participants in this recent stakeholder event and the countless others who have contributed along the way, look forward to seeing how the Scottish Government will rise to these challenges.