Event will see hundreds gather to discuss the future of democracy in Scotland, as ministers consult on how to reform local governance
- Statement from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland
- Spokespeople are available for interview. For more information contact [email protected] or 020 3743 6064.
- Journalists are invited to attend – contact press office for accreditation. Conference tickets are available here.
Power must be given to Scottish citizens to avert a ‘democratic crisis’ and tackle over-centralised government, according to leading democracy campaigners.
The Scottish Government has stated its desire to “devolve more power to more local levels” and in the last few weeks has launched its Local Governance consultation, Democracy Matters .
Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Scotland has backed the consultation and is urging the public to submit their ideas, ahead of a major national conference taking place in Glasgow on Saturday, titled Democracy21.
The ‘Our Democracy’ coalition leading the conference will launch a ‘Declaration on Local Democracy’ at the event – to set out key principles for democratic government in Scotland.
ERS Scotland are calling for citizens to be at the centre of decision-making, with an expanded and enshrined role for community plans, participatory budgeting and citizens’ assemblies on key issues.
Over 400 campaigners, civil society thinkers and community activists are set to attend this weekend’s conference.
Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland, said:
“If democracy was to be judged solely on levels of representation, Scotland would be considered among the least democratic countries in Europe. There is just one local representative for every 4,270 people – compared to one in 200 in Austria, one in 400 in Germany, and one in 2,860 in England.
“Scotland is highly centralised – and it’s time to put power in the hands of local communities. The government’s consultation on local governance is a landmark opportunity to change how we do politics in Scotland for the better.
“For far too long people have been too far removed from the decisions which affect their daily lives – and what we want is for power to be placed in their hands.
“This is something which has been recognised by the Scottish Government. As they note, communities being more in control will create exciting opportunities.
“In the face of so many challenges for democracy – from fake news to out-of-date regulations, and from big donor influence to the rise of populism, it’s time to start crafting what we want a truly grassroots democracy to look like.
“This is what Democracy21 is all about – bringing together communities and leading thinkers to figure out how things can be done differently – to find positive solutions to the problems at hand.
“The end goal is for people in Scotland to be active participants in local decision-making, not frustrated bystanders.
“We urge communities to take part in the local democracy consultation, and to attend this weekend’s conference on ‘taking power back’ for citizens.”
Democracy 21 has been organised by ERS Scotland and the Our Democracy campaign, which was launched in 2016 after it was revealed 76 percent of Scots felt they had no or very little influence on council spending or services.
Since then, it has brought together thousands of local people – with the aim of taking power into our own hands.
In October, examples of Scottish communities already getting organised for change were celebrated at ‘Amplify’ – the first of a three-part series of events.
And at the start of this year Our Democracy campaigners, in conjunction with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, facilitated six deliberative events in small communities where citizens were encouraged to ‘Act As If’ they own the place, and to decide on their local priorities.
A second event in the series, ‘Impact’ showcased some of the best work already being done in community organising, and saw campaigners discuss how communities can take the power they need to make decisions locally. 
Hundreds of tickets have already been sold for the event at Glasgow Marriott Hotel on Saturday.
Keys speakers include: Doreen Grove, Head of the Open Government Partnership; Paul Mason, journalist; Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland; Linda Somerville, NUS Scotland; Lesley Riddoch, Broadcaster; Kyle Taylor, Fair Vote; Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey; and many more.
Sessions will cover how to ‘take power back’ for local communities, online campaigning in the 21st century in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a ‘crisis of representation’ in Scotland and more.
Tickets are still available: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/democracy-21-lets-build-a-democracy-fit-for-the-21st-century-tickets-42562134490
Notes to Editors