Places work best when they work for everyone. This means taking into account the needs of everyone in a community.
Some population groups may face particular barriers and meaningfully involving them in change is of real importance. It is often those who are furthest from contact with public services that would benefit most from participation in decision-making. Collaboration and innovative engagement in place-based activity can capture the important knowledge and views of diverse groups and help guide processes that are truly inclusive to deliver sustained and long term benefits for all.
The process of engaging communities is well-established in Scotland. Since the introduction of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, it has been a legal duty for community planning partnerships and community planning partners to engage with those community bodies who can contribute to community planning to influence and shape change. These community bodies support the interests of local communities and communities of specific interest; from particular ethnic or cultural backgrounds; or of particular vulnerable or disabled groups; or with protected characteristics etc.
To support this duty, proper insight and investment across services is required to ensure that the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities are able to participate in and benefit from this agenda. Communities that experienced disadvantage may be less likely to have capacity to engage and participate in local processes, to take action, to access funding and to deliver change in their local areas. Addressing this capacity gap is essential in advancing equalities and eliminate discriminations.
National Standards for Community Engagement
Developed by the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) as a resource to help building and sustaining relationship between public services and community groups, the National Standards for Community Engagement are good practice principles designed to improve and guide the process of community engagement.
SCDC leads and supports community development in Scotland, with a vision for an active, inclusive and just Scotland where our communities are strong, equitable and sustainable.
Find out more about National Standards for Community Engagement here
SCDC also hosts the VOiCE Tool. VOiCE is planning and recording software that assists individuals, organisations and partnerships to design and deliver effective community engagement. The tool provides a common approach for users to plan, monitor and evaluate community engagement practice.
Access the VOiCE tool here
The Public Sector Equality Duty
The public sector equality duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.
The duty seeks to integrate the consideration of equality and good relations into the day-to-day business of public authorities. The general equality duty requires organisations to consider how they can positively contribute to the advancement of equality and good relations. It requires equality considerations to be reflected into the design of policies and the delivery of services, including internal policies, and for these issues to be kept under review.
Information on the public sector equality duty in Scotland is available at the
Engaging Children and Young People
Children and young people are citizens in their own right. They engage with places and the built environment in their own ways but often their views are not sought when places are changed or when developments are being designed and delivered.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has 54 Articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and set out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. Article 12 is specific on children’s right to express their views in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.
UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (the Bill) was unanimously passed by the Parliament in March 2021.
This is landmark legislation that will see the biggest shift in power since devolution, helping to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, called the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law “the most important thing we can do to protect and uphold the rights of children and young people”. The Bill will deliver a fundamental shift in the way children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland.
Improving and enabling physical access and wider social inclusion in local places and in the neighbourhoods for disabled people must be considered in designing and making places. For some disabled people the physical environment can pose problems in accessing the places and facilities that many people take for granted. Also, in addition to some physical barriers that some people may experience, disabled people may also feel unsafe in certain environments, which can lead to individuals avoiding certain places and losing out on opportunities that others may enjoy.
It's essential that the views and needs of everyone feed into how change is implemented and this is best done through early engagement and developing an understanding of how everyone needs to move around.
It is important to ensure participation of disabled people form part of the engagement strategy from the outset so that their views are taken into consideration, so places can work for everyone, of all ages and with different abilities.
Work on the inclusive design agenda is progressing and guidance on inclusive design in town centres and busy streets in being developed through a partnership between Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and a range of organisations from across Scotland.
You can read more on Inclusive Design and a research report here.
You can read the background research report on inclusive design in town centres and busy streets here.
Remote, Rural and Island Communities
Most of the landmass in Scotland is rural and almost one in five people live in rural areas.
The opportunities and challenges in remote, rural and island settings are different from those of urban settlements; and each rural and island location has its own story, heritage and unique lived experiences. It is important to engage people where they are to truly understand what these communities need and what work best for them in their particular sets of circumstances and what they need to help them live well locally.
Distances and geography can pose particular difficulties for engagement on rural or island areas and approaches may need to adapt in order to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate.
Below is a video setting out how the Place Standard tool was used in Shetland Islands to help coordinate consultation and increasing the level of community engagement across multiple agendas