Over the last decade Scotland has been a hot-bed of democratic renewal. Recently, funding for the “active citizenship” building Scottish Civic Forum has been cut by the Scottish Executive. In past years you’ve heard me praise the Scottish Parliament for their online activities and e-petitioning. For those interested in e-petitioning within -formal- representative process this is one to watch. Be sure to note the discussion feature of which I was not previously aware. What is so important about this online process is that it formally accommodates “anywhere, any time” participation within the construct of official representative processes. I suppose a question with the Scottish Civic Forum, is to what extent should the representatives support the general voice of civil society and active citizens outside of parliament/the executive versus dealing with relatively resource rich interest groups. (From my experience, few citizens want to individually donate to “democratic overhead” unless it advocates for their beliefs – so foundations and governments are the only real source of support for “active citizenship.”)
Before a bunch of non-Scots sign on, Prof. Stephen Coleman raised some good questions on the Do-Consult forum about the call to sign the petition, which is shared just below:
Before signing such a position, or agreeing that the forum should be
funded, I would like to know more.
How many people use it?
What affect has the forum had on decisions made by the Executive or
Has the forum been independently evaluated?
What arguments has the Executive given for not supporting the forum?
Let’s form a balanced judgement before rushing into this. (And just how
many petition signatures from non-Scots is the Executive supposed to take
notice of, anyway?)
Here is the call as forwarded by Lorna Ahl to the do-consult group:
From: “Debbie Wilkie” debbie .email@example.com
Date: Thu Oct 27, 2005 10:01 am
Subject: Just a minute …..or less
To: “CIVICFORUM” civicforum @civicforum.org.uk
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to sign the e-petition asking for the implications of not funding the Scottish Civic Forum to be debated by the Scottish Parliament. It is not too late to make your voice heard – but almost!!. There is just a week to go for collecting signatures to the petition lodged by Edinburgh’s Active Citizen’s Group, so please could I ask you to take just a few seconds to add your voice. If every Forum contact was able to add just 6 signatures to the list it would make the petition one of the largest submitted to the Parliament. So, if you think it is important for citizens to be able to participate, please consider supporting the petition. You can do this by clicking on this link:
It was agreed by all political parties at the time of devolution that a civic-led organisation was needed to support new participants to get invovled in the Parliament’s work. The Forum has provided opportunities for participation in debate on issues of the day in over 40 different locations in Scotland over the last two years and has involved over 3,000 people. 70% of those responding to a survey said they hadn’t had any other opportunity to participate in a discussion on the subject of the event. These opportunities for people to participate will soon be lost unless the decisions of the Parliament Corporate Body and Scottish Executive not to fund the Forum can be reversed. The feedback the Forum has had is that a lot of people, particularly those working in small community led organisations and individuals often do not know how to find out what is going on or how to participate. Lack of knowledge was cited recently by MORI as being one of the main barriers to participation.
Please also circulate this e-mail to your contacts, friends etc.
With thanks in anticipation,
Scottish Civic Forum
FÃ²ram Catharra Na H-Alba
16 Jackson’s Entry (From the Royal Mile turn into Crichtons Close opposite
Geraldines – SCF is on the left just past the Scottish Poetry Library)
t: 0131 524 9395
f: 0870 051 1192