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March 26, 2014

From the Centre to Community

Democracy Max was published last year by the Electoral Reform Society at the culmination of a 13 month citizen led enquiry into what could make Scotland’s democracy function more effectively. A whole range of ideas and propositions were set out as options for strengthening our system of local democracy. On 5th April, ERS host an event –From the Centre to Community – to explore how our system of local democracy might be transformed – there are only a few places left and the organisers are particularly keen for folk from communities to get involved.


Electoral Reform Society

From Centre to Community – reclaiming local democracy

Playfair Library, Edinburgh, Saturday April 5th

Democracy Max was a 13 month long citizen led inquiry into ‘what makes a good Scottish democracy’. Having analysed the findings, ERS Scotland is holding a Convention on Scottish Democracy to discuss how we can make some of the aspirations of Democracy Max become reality. 

We would like you to be part of that conversation.

From our experience of and insights gained during Democracy Max, we decided that our focus should be on the extension of democratic power to a really local level, and to suggest ways that democracy can operate best when people have power in their own towns and communities. 

Together with the Academy of Government at the University of Edinburgh, we are holding a day long deliberative discussion event focussed on discussion, experience sharing and deliberation to decide the best ways to strengthen Scotland’s local democracy. 

We are inviting experts, academics, practitioners, advocates and critics to present ‘evidence sessions’ which will then be debated and discussed in a facilitated deliberative format in order that the evidence can be thoroughly examined and future actions proposed. Speakers include Oliver Dowlen, an expert on selection by lot; Paddy Bort on how local democracy works elsewhere in Europe; alongside practitioners and advocates of community led projects. 

From Centre to Community will take place on Saturday April 5th in the Playfair Library at the University of Edinburgh. We hope you are interested and available and would ask you to register here to secure your place. 

If you have any queries, please get in touch. 

Willie Sullivan, Director

Juliet Swann, Campaigns & Research Officer

ERS Scotland



9.15 Find a seat and introduce yourselves. Who are you and why are you here? What do you want to get out of today?


9.45 1st deliberation: ‘Why are we discussing local democracy?’

Evidence session 1 – Hansard’s Audit of Political Engagement (Juliet Swann, ERS Scotland)

Evidence session 2 – How does Scottish local government compare internationally? (Paddy Bort, University of Edinburgh)

Evidence session 3 – Community councils’ status update (TBC)

Followed by a facilitated roundtable discussion reflecting on the presentations and resulting in statements about of why improving local democracy is important and what benefits it will bring. 

10.50 BREAK – tea and coffee

11.20 2nd deliberation: How might we strengthen local democracy?

Evidence session 1 – Community assets (David Erdal, Tullis Russell)

Evidence session 2 – Sortition (Oliver Dowlen, Queen Mary University of London)

Evidence session 3 – Mini publics (Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh)

Followed by a facilitated roundtable discussion about these and other ideas and solutions for strengthening local democracy, their merits and any disadvantages. 

13.00 LUNCH

14.00 New tables and short plenary session to describe next steps

14.10 3rd deliberation: How might we implement these solutions?

Evidence session 1: Community action across Scotland (Juliette Summers, University of Stirling)

Evidence session 2: Leith Decides – participatory budgeting (TBC)

Evidence session 3: Renewable energy as a community project (Jelte Harnmeijer, Scene Consulting)

Followed by the final facilitated discussion which will focus delivering solutions to strengthen local democracy, taking account of the reflections from this final evidence session.

15.35 BREAK

16:10 Final session: Building the campaign 

The aim of this plenary session is to draw together as many inputs as possible for shaping the campaign and to find out who is motivated and able to participate at some level. 

16.50 Thank you and next steps