The National: This is the latest edition of Gordon MacIntyre-Kemps' Reinventing Scotland newsletter, all about the wellbeing economy. To receive it free to your inbox every week, sign up here.

IN a wellbeing economy, we must end economic exclusion and ensure as many people in society are as economically active as possible.

However, we must also end democratic exclusion. These two issues are deeply connected. There is a sense of desperate alienation people feel when society does not seem to work for them, nor value their opinions or wellbeing.

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This leads to people becoming disconnected from community, the economy and democracy, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of exclusion and even poverty.

My three solutions are participatory budgeting, communities gain democratic control of spending on local issues (covered in last week's article), the localisation of democracy, solutions to problems are sourced from the people closest to the problem and electronic democracy, instant access to the democratic process.

Let's look at electronic democracy

Estonia has utilised e-voting in national elections since 2005 and recently as many as 65% of votes cast were electronic.

An instant shift to e-voting in Scottish elections is not what I am suggesting. Currently, only 14 out of 178 countries use internet voting and only Estonia and the UAE have used it in national elections.

Why the slow uptake?

The technology to sufficiently secure online voting for general elections where national governments are formed and billions in government spending is decided just does not yet exist.

The motivation for bad state actors and financially interested parties to interfere with a national election is also too high. However, such motivations and scale of reward for hacking a community budgeting vote just do not exist.

Estonia insists their system is safe and some of their safety checks should be implemented if it were to be used in participatory budgeting votes.

The National:

These include voters being allowed to vote online up to a week in advance, with opportunity to change their vote multiple times throughout this period.

Voters also have the ability to vote on election day using a paper ballot, cancelling all previous electronic votes to ensure secrecy and limit coercion.

Indeed, Estonia claims there has not been a single proven case of voter fraud. Let's be honest though, if e-voting were used in a UN Security Council Member presidential or general election there would be mass cyber attacks.

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I seriously doubt however foreign-government-organised troll factories would engage in trying to destabilise a vote to spend £5000 on moving a bus stop 100 yards along a road, providing a new pedestrian crossing or upgrading the lighting in the lane that leads to the park.

Those examples are not trivial – they matter to local communities and giving people a say engages them democratically and shows voting can matter to them.

Estonia claims older folks use the technology and in the UK, 92% of voters have access to smartphone – there must be paper voting, the option is not as exclusionary as some might suggest.

Hand in hand with localisation of democracy

Look, we have a problem in Scotland and throughout the UK. Our system of government is centralised, unwieldy and uninspiring.

For a start, our council areas are ridiculously large. No other nation tries to run itself through bureaucratic inefficient mega councils.

Scotland has 32 council areas with an average population of around 169,000 people per council.

Take Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee City Councils out of the mix and the average population is still 139,000 per council.

The National:

It used to be worse. Remember Strathclyde Regional Council, which in the 1970s covered 60% of the Scottish population, amounting to almost 2.9m citizens on a par with New Zealand, Ireland, Jamaica and Uruguay?

Indeed, were it a nation, its population would have ranked 113th out of 228 in the world.

Northern European nations with a similar population to Scotland do things differently. Denmark has 98 councils with an average of 58,000 people. Finland has 313 councils with average populations of 17,500 and Norway 428 councils with only 12,000 people in each.

So how do we do this?

Devolution means that Scotland’s problems are being dealt with by people with a better understanding of Scotland’s needs but the current system is still way too centralised.

An independent Scotland implementing the wellbeing socioeconomic approach needs not just smaller councils but empowered local communities to take decision making closer to the people.

There are around 1200 active community councils in Scotland and by and large they struggle to find volunteers because they have little financial or political power.

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A national online network of local discussion and decision making communities could reinvigorate local democracy, increase participation, personal responsibility and improve decision making and delivery of local services.

Sure there are highly complex problems where access to specialist knowledge is vital such as homelessness, drug consumption rooms, transport policy etc., where decisions must be made at the national level.

There are issues such as trade that might be decided internationally (with the EU!).

There are also (currently) security risks associated with online democracy but those are mitigated if it's used for smaller budget projects and community council elections.

Do the people want it?

Electoral Reform Scotland found that 67% felt they had little/no influence over decisions affecting their local community and 44% would give up free time to help local councils make decisions.

People don’t just want local government to run smoothly, they want to be involved in shaping the future of where they live.

The sheer size of Scotland’s council areas means that council election manifestos simply reflect national party policy – it’s lazy democracy.

This provides little hope of success for independent candidates standing for election but with reform, local champions could emerge from the online forums and elections to challenge the status quo.

If this could engage just one disenfranchised electoral group it must be young people – because it's their future that our dysfunctional democracy is threatening.