Scots are taking charge of public funds through participatory budgeting

Canny wi cash image web

Edinburgh's Canny wi' Cash PB initiative enabled the community to decide on services for older people 

Communities across Scotland are having a say in how public money is spent through participatory budgeting

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20th October 2015 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

It may not be the catchiest term, but participatory budgeting (PB) is certainly catching the attention of a lot of people in Scotland.

If you’ve missed it so far, PB involves the direct spending of portions of public money by local people on the things that matter to them. Initially developed in Brazil as a means of radically shifting power to disadvantaged communities, PB is now recognised internationally as a way to reinvigorate democracy, and it is capturing imaginations across Scotland from the Western Isles to Leith.

PB Scotland is a new website which aims to build on this energy and enthusiasm and help to develop it further.

Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson

There is no strict format to PB, so long as it results in people having a direct say in how public money is spent locally. A common approach is to host a public event where people are invited to hear competing pitches for funding and to vote for which they prefer. The Highland Council have just completed a variation on this in Lochaber, in which people voted online to decide how to distribute £10,000 to youth projects in the area. In total, 1,279 people voted, resulting in 11 out of 42 youth projects being funded. 

Successful projects included Lochaber Leisure Centre swim team, which received £2,500 for equipment, and Lochaber Women’s Aid, which was awarded £150 for listening resources. Importantly, the process got people of all ages involved in the process of prioritising funds, connecting them to democratic processes in a meaningful way.

The Lochaber PB pilot was supported by PB Partners who have been funded by the Scottish Government to help local authorities develop PB activity. The Scottish Government has also funded the Scottish Community Development Centre to develop then new website, PB Scotland, which will act as a hub for sharing and learning about the great work being done by PB initiatives around Scotland. As well as featuring regular news and guest blogs, the website links to a host of PB resources and has a useful map of PB activity in Scotland. For anyone who is unfamiliar to PB, the website also contains short introductions to the approach and plenty of illustrative examples.

We intend to feature PB projects on the site wherever and whenever they spring up in Scotland, and would be very interested in hearing from any local PB projects, so please get in touch if you have anything to share. You can also subscribe to the PB Scotland mailing list to ensure you don’t miss any updates on PB in Scotland.

Andrew Paterson is policy and research officer at Scottish Community Development Centre & Community Health Exchange 

20th October 2015 by Kathleen Caskie

It sounds like the Lochaber 'participatory budgeting' was all about making the public responsible for allocating funds to the third sector. That doesn't seem very helpful at all. Surely it's meant to be about redesigning public services, not a beauty contest for local charities?