Agenda for pioneering Open Government: A Common Weal contribution to the Open Government Programme

Overview —

Common Weal’s submission to the Scottish Government on how they can meet the proposals and principles laid down by the Open Government Partnership.


Dr Ben Simmons

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In 2011 the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched as an international project to bring government and civil society together in a partnership to improve participation and transparency, reduce corruption and protect privacy. It now involves 70 countries around the world, each of which must put forward action plans to improve openness which are agreed in partnership and reported upon independently.

This short paper is drawn from Common Weal’s previous policy work, from the citizen participation sessions that we held and from an online consultation process organised via social media. While we appreciate that the initial proposals for Scotland’s action plan are likely to be some way short of the ideas in this paper, we hope that these can set an agenda for a much more forward-looking approach to participation and transparency over the months and years to come.

This paper is organised into three sections. Transparency is taken to mean the extent to which the public can find out information about what is being done in the public realm and with public finances. Accountability is taken to mean the ability of citizens to know how those who enact public policy have gone about it, that they should be able to assess whether democratic power has been wielded effectively and in the public interest, that decision-makers can be made to take responsibility for their actions and that in the event of bad practice there can be consequences. And Participation is taken to mean the ability of citizens not only to observe and respond more fully to what is being done in their name but actively to influence, shape and become involved in the ‘doing’.


― Transparency. Government should be transparent both in its actions and in its use of data. Freedom of Information should be extended to cover any area where public money is used – even if it is outsourced to a private company.

― Accountability. Citizens and services users should always be able to feed back their views and experiences of public services. Lobby watchdogs and an Ethics Covenant should be used to ensure that public servants act in the public interest and not for their own interests or the interests of lobbyists.

― Participation. Citizens’ Assemblies, Participatory Budgeting, Open Consultations and other mechanisms of direct democracy should be introduced and/or expanded.

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