Over the past year, communities across Scotland have come together to get us through this pandemic. 

As we start to rebuild, all of us can be part of that effort. If we want a Scotland that is built for us, it has to be built by us.

Local democracy is a shadow of what it could be. Too often, democracy is reduced to simply marching to the polls every five years – handing power over to a group of council officers and Councillors, who often meet far away from where we live. The result? The majority feel powerless about the future of our local areas. 

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland – made up of ordinary people across the country – recently called for a new way of doing democracy. For ordinary citizens to have a say, not just at election time, but throughout.

By coming together in local Citizens’ Assemblies*, we can all have a stake in what happens next. It is time for the people of Scotland to start running our local communities.

This Holyrood election, we are calling for parties to:

  1. Back a new way of doing local democracy – by letting communities set up local Citizens’ Assemblies to plan their areas’ futures.

  2. Introduce an ambitious Local Democracy Bill, that makes it easy for people to take power back to where they are .

  3. Sign up to the Declaration on Local Democracy (below), enshrining a principle of local community power

It’s time to move power from distant cities and dusty chambers back into our neighbourhoods. That’s how we build our resilience, strengthen our democratic muscle and work together, to look out for each other. Communities are made by people deciding and working together.

*A citizens' assembly is a group of local people, chosen so they reflect the population, who are brought together to learn about and discuss issues, and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen.

Declaration on Local Democracy

Democracy is the right for people to decide how the place where they live is run. For a hundred years this right has built our communities, our society and our sense of justice. But too few people now believe that this right is being honoured, too few believe that they decide and too many believe they are powerless and voiceless. So we call for a new democracy which is ready to help us build for a hundred years to come.

First, decisions must be made for each place, in that place by the people who live there. Our towns and villages must decide for themselves just as our nation must decide for itself. Power must exist at the scale of the community which is affected. We need our democracy much closer.

Second, the right to decide should not disappear each time the brief flicker of an election is over. Delegating our right to decide is not, in itself, enough. We must create a democracy that involves us all the time, where citizens do not just choose rulers but shape the rules.

Third, democracy must be powerful. The right to choose must be matched by the power to do – and the power to do must be matched with the resource to do it. Democracy is not gifted from above but from below, so power and resource must rest in the places where people live.

This is our simple vision for our future; a truly local democracy, a truly participatory democracy and a truly powerful democracy.

We have learned the lesson of our last hundred years; it is not enough that the future is built, it must be built for us. We must now learn a lesson for our next hundred years; it is not enough that the future is built for us, it must be built by us.

Sign the declaration

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