See how PB in Scotland is
Moving Toward the Mainstream

A new film about the next steps for participatory budgeting in Scotland

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Participatory budgeting is a way for people to have a direct say in how public money is spent.

Up until now, PB has typically taken the form of a small grants model, where pots of money are voted on and distributed at local events or online.

In the film, we see how mainstream PB builds on this by opening up the voting process to larger public body budgets.

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Done well, mainstream PB has the potential to reshape public participation in local democracy, ultimately leading to better decisions that meet the needs of local people.

Working toward mainstreaming is a challenge because it’s so new in Scotland.

There are no experts here other than the people doing the work, so it’s for us to create an approach that works, with the film capturing some of what's happening right now


What next?

COSLA and the Scottish Government have committed to 1% of local government budgets being decided through participatory budgeting by the end of 2021.

To help towards achieving that, we need to decide what mainstream PB could look like across the country - and how we can make sure communities involved in this process.



So we're asking:

"How can we make sure mainstream participatory budgeting is done with and not to communities?"


Want to see more?

Learn more about what's happening in Glasgow and North Ayrshire in these dedicated shorts.

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North Ayrshire


What is participatory budgeting?

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a way for local people having a direct say in how public money is spent.

It is an approach born in Puerto Alegre (Brazil) over thirty years ago, where people developed a definition: ‘if it feels like we decided - it’s PB’. 

Read our 60-second guide here.

What is the 1% commitment to PB?

The Scottish Government and COSLA have announced that at least 1% of local government budgets will be decided through participatory budgeting (PB) by the end of 2021, with £100 million in council funds potentially available.

Following the inclusion of the commitment in the Scottish Government programme for government earlier in the year, the two bodies have agreed a framework for operation of the fund. Local authorities will decide how to take forward the work to reach the target by the end of the current parliament.

What are the benefits of PB?

PB can support active citizenship, helping build more active and stronger communities that are:

  • better able to take decisions on where public funds are spent.

  • more likely to take part in community activities

  • better informed about public budgets and decision making

When done well, PB brings people together to start conversations. Good conversations can lead to relationships that make our communities stronger.

For public bodies, PB means better decisions that meet the needs of local people – increasing trust engagement and interest in local decision making.

“We’re about to go through I think the most challenging budget period that we have ever experienced in local government and we need something to allow us to engage and to maintain the trust of our communities, and participatory budgeting for me allows me to do that and allows my staff to do that.”

Elma Murray OBE, CEO North Ayrshire Council

Can PB address inequalities?

Community empowerment and a deepening of participatory democracy are essential in redressing the inequalities that exist within our society.

When people are engaged in community life, they are more likely to experience positive health and life outcomes.

PB can help deliver the Public Sector Equality Duty by advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between different groups

PB will only be effective in achieving these ambitions if it is done with and not to communities.

How has PB developed in Scotland?

Since 2014 the Scottish Government has invested over £5.2 million in a range of measures to support the introduction and development of PB in Scotland. This includes funding for Scottish local authorities to support training and practice development, fund resources to support community involvement and the delivery of participatory decision-making processes.

The Community Choices Fund was introduced in 2015 as a means of direct financial support and match funding to public authorities and community organisations to support local PB activity.

What is PB Scotland?

PB Scotland acts as a hub for sharing and learning about the participatory budgeting work being carried out across Scotland. It features news, articles, events and more.

PB Scotland is developed by the Scottish Community Development Centre, a small charity recognised as the lead body for community development in Scotland.

SCDC is funded by the Scottish Government to support PB activity across the country, including the running of this website and the production of this film.



What is mainstream PB?

Mainstream PB uses voting to decide on much larger, public body budgets – budgets usually decided on by local authorities, for example.

Mainstream PB has the potential to be much more transformative as, if done well, means local people can vote for things that are important to them. This means better decisions that can meet the needs of local people.

Mainstream PB is still developing in Scotland – this film seeks raise questions and share ideas about how we can further this approach.

What is small grants PB?

Small grants PB sees a set pot of money dispersed by people voting on what projects or ideas should be funded.

Up until now, most PB in Scotland has been using the small grants model. This means that a funder has provides a certain amount of money to be dispersed through a PB process.

More than 40,000 votes were cast in 2016/17 as part of the Community Choices voting events, which used the small grants model.

Community Choices 2018/19 is currently open for applications. Find out more here.

Where does PB fit in how other ways people can be involved in decision making?

PB is a method, amongst others, of community engagement and empowerment and is part of a wider strategic approach to building a more participatory democracy.

A participatory democracy is a healthy democracy in which people have influence over what happens to them, their families and their communities.

PB can help meet a key recommendation of the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services:  ‘Reforms must aim to empower individuals and communities receiving public services by involving them in the design and delivery of the services they use’.


How make sure PB includes those most at risk of being marginalised in society?

Much of the early PB focused on geographical communities such as neighbourhoods or communities of interest such as schools. PB must not exclude communities of identity who exist within and independent of other forms of community.

PB must do more that the legal minimum of avoiding discrimination and making reasonable adjustments. PB processes can focus on Protected Characteristics or beyond, including people with experience of homelessness or refugees.

Good PB can be a positive action tool to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different communities.  

About this film

The film was released by PB Scotland and Glasgow City Council and was funded through the Community Choices Fund.

It features contributions from: North Ayrshire Council, Possobilities, South Glasgow Youthbank, The Three Towns Growers Ardrossan and the Vineburgh Centre Irvine.

The film was produced by Media Co-op.

How can I use this film?

This film can be used by anyone to highlight PB and the development of mainstreaming across Scotland. You can download the film or embed it into your site with no charge.

Get in touch if you want additional materials or advice about using the film as part of your work