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FINANCE MINISTER MOVES TO STRENGTHEN EXECUTIVE CONSULTATION

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The Scottish executive is to look at new ways of meeting public expectations of partnership politics by strengtheni...
The Scottish executive is to look at new ways of meeting public expectations of partnership politics by strengthening formal consultation procedures, finance minister Jack McConnell told the Scottish parliament today.

Speaking in a statement on increasing civic participation in Scottish public life, Mr McConnell said it was vital to harness the creativity and expertise of as wide a group of people as possible to enable the executive to develop better policies.

Mr McConnell said:

'Partnership politics mean better policies. I want to see inclusive and consultative policy-making at the centre of our 21st century government agenda.

'I announced some months ago that we would fund the Scottish Civic Forum to the tune of£300,000 and we remain committed to supporting the it and working with it in the years ahead.

'We see the forum as a reliable source of advice, both for the executive and parliament, on how all relevant interests can have their say in what we do.

'Our commitment to civic participation is such that we want more than a series of ad hoc measures. Too often consultations can appear to be glossy documents circulated to the usual suspects, often with deadlines that are far too tight.

'That is not good enough. The Scottish people and this parliament will rightly demand more.

'Last month the Scottish cabinet committed itself to a series of concrete actions to improve the way we consult on our policies. This isn't about consultation overload, it's about smarter consultation, building on the existing initiatives.

'We will implement four clear rules for future consultations:

1. We will allow more time - 12 weeks minimum except in urgent cases.

2. We will ensure that the issues on which we consult are clear and the language is straightforward.

3. We will ensure that those who respond to a consultation get feedback on the outcome of the exercise.

4. We will work with the committees of this parliament because we want MSPs to have confidence in the consultation exercises which we conduct.

'We must be imaginative in how we consult. This means actively engaging with our electorate. That's why, for example, I'm going to be visiting four corners of Scotland in the next month to elicit views on the 'Investing in You' document starting with an event in Dumfries next Tuesday.

'I believe we can achieve a new relationship with voters between elections with genuine dialogue and engagement, renewing confidence in politics and government.

'No government has a monopoly on good sense, creativity or expertise. We have a responsibility to the people of Scotland to harness these qualities wherever we find them - both amongst our own ranks and more widely in civic society.

'That is why the executive is committed to improving participation in the way we make our policies. A wide ranging and deep commitment to participation on a sustained basis, building real dialogue between the executive, MSPs, civic society and the people of Scotland more widely.

'These are not quick fixes. It will take time to invigorate the practice of participation. But we are already seeing the benefits of our commitment to participation with policies focussed on real people, policies designed to have a lasting impact and partnership in delivering real solutions.'

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