On the 31st January 2017, the Scottish Government began a 4 month public consultation under the current unconventional oil and gas (UOG) moratorium, and which ended on 31st May. Submissions to the consultation are to inform the Government’s recommendation to Scottish Parliament whether or not to permit unconventional oil and gas production in Scotland.
Many regard this to be the most important consultation in Scotland for decades, particularly, as most of the UOG deposits are located below densely populated areas. It may have also been the first ever to include a participatory democratic component.
The Community Chartering Network (CCN) offered impartial support for Community Councils to conduct community discussions and respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation. We were approached by sixteen Community Councils, for whom we facilitated UOG Community Discussions within the consultation period. This was achieved with significant support from community councillors and local volunteers, and three professional facilitators from Connecting Scotland: Andy Lippok, Gordon Carmichael and Bronagh Gallagher.
A map showing the location of those community councils who hosted a Community Discussion is shown below, who together represent a total population of around 130,000 Scottish citizens.
Map of Scottish Community Councils who hosted a UOG Community Discussion
Outcomes: Benefits, Risks and Messages to the Scottish Government
In all cases, the potential benefits and risks of UOG, and messages to the Scottish Government were written up by the facilitators, and verified or amended for accuracy with community councillors and participants prior to submission by the community council. In all cases a consent position was reached on the outcomes and one or more message to the Scottish Government.
Below is the link to the consultation submission put together by Community Chartering Network and Connecting Scotland, which offers a summary of the common themes across the Community Discussions as a whole, and links to the consented outcomes for each of the participating Community Councils.
- COMMUNITY CHARTERING NETWORK and CONNECTING SCOTLAND SUMMARY OF OUTCOMES.
- Airth (Falkirk)
- Avonbridge and Standburn (Falkirk)
- Bo’ness (Falkirk)
- Bonnybridge (Falkirk)
- Denny and Dunipace (Falkirk)
- Grangemouth and Skinflats (Falkirk)
- Kirkintilloch (East Dumbartonshire)
- Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood (Falkirk)
- Milton (Glasgow)
- Plains (North Lanarkshire)
- Robroyston (Glasgow)
- Saline and Steelend (Fife)
- Shieldhill and California (Falkirk)
- Shotts (North Lanarkshire)
- Torrance (East Dumbartonshire)
- Westfield, Cumbernauld (North Lanarkshire)
Overview of the UOG Community Discussion Process
In the majority of cases, leaflets notifying residents of their Community Discussion were posted through most or all doors in the community council area. In the others, they were advertised via community council email lists, social media or by notices in public places.
The Community Discussion began with a 40 minute presentation on UOG following information slides set out in Scottish Government’s Discussion Pack for large groups. Most also included presentation and handout of a list of generic community assets, to help ground the conversation in the experience of the community as a whole, and of three perspectives on UOG (Scottish Government, industry and community), to help residents new to the subject with a range of viewpoints on the situation.
Following the presentation was a 10 minute activity where each resident wrote their personal top 3 UOG benefits, risks and messages to Government on post-its and stuck them on a wall.
There then followed 60 or more minutes of facilitated group discussion where time was split roughly equally between the main benefits and risks of UOG for residents, as determined by their post-its. Depending on numbers, residents were often split into two equal groups for this stage. In the final 10 minutes main outcomes of the discussions were summarised and a collective message to Government was discussed and agreed.
To close, facilitators requested feedback on the value of the process, how it might be improved, and the perceived impartiality of the facilitation.