Civic Forum facing axe from Scottish parliament
Only lukewarm support from MSPs to retain body for community involvement in politics.
The Scottish Civic Forum looks set to close later this year, after six years of organising debates around the country and setting up a network of local co-ordinators to encourage local communities to get involved with the parliament.
A decision by the Executive to stop its funding, and the Parliamentary Corporate Body refusal to step in with new cash means it will almost certainly have to close its doors at the end of the financial year.
Civic Forum Director, Debbie Wilkie, has described the ending of funding as “a blow to Scotland’s new democracy.”
“If the Parliament’s founding principles of power sharing, accountability, openness and equal opportunities are to be fully realised there needs to be an independent body, led by citizens, working to involve people in influencing government. The ways that people participate in the work of the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament should not be determined by those institutions alone.”
She described what she thought the Forum had achieved:
“It has created first opportunities for many citizens to participate – from Cromarty to Stranraer and Galashiels to Skye we’ve taken the debate on issues that affect them right to peoples’ doorsteps. At the time of the establishment of the Parliament there was an acknowledged need for a civic body to promote citizen involvement and it’s a sad day for Scottish democracy that that principle is now being completely abandoned.”
Donald Gorrie MSP has put forward a motion of support for the Forum on the Scottish Parliament website. At the time of writing, six other MSPs have signed it:
Jackie Baillie, Linda Fabiani, Shiona Baird, Patrick Harvie, Kenny MacAskill, and Rosemary Byrne.
You can view the motion, and those MSPs who have signed it, at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/motionsAndAmendments/motions.htm
The Executive’s official line is that funding was never meant to go on forever; the forum was expected to find new sources of finance. It has also been argued that the parliament has developed effective consultation procedures which have made the forum more or less redundant.
There is also a view that ministers simply took a dislike to the forum, seeing it as a platform for ‘the usual suspects’ whose opinions generally conflict with their own.
Further comment: ‘Lone voice in the wilderness with no cash’ – Ian Swanson (Scotsman, 14.07.05)