Citizens’ Assembly heralds new era for democracy

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The first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland takes place this weekend

25th October 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A new era for democracy in Scotland is set to begin this weekend.

The first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland is being held this weekend (26 and 27 October), with 100 people taking part in a unique project that will help shape Scotland’s constitutional future.

The assembly, convened by David Martin and Kate Wimpress, has recruited people from across Scotland who are representative of the wider public as a whole to consider three key questions for the nation.

These are: What kind of country are we seeking to build?; How can we best overcome the challenges the challenges that Scotland and the world faces, including those arising from Brexit?; and What further work should be carried out to give people the detail they need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

The members were recruited through a process of random selection to broadly reflect the adult population of Scotland in terms of geography, age, gender, ethnic group, educational qualifications, limiting long term conditions/disability and political attitudes towards Scottish independence, the UK’s membership of the EU and Scottish Parliament voting preferences.

Over the course of six weekends, members will undertake a process of learning and discussion in order to come up with a range of conclusions and recommendations in response to the three questions in the remit. 

These conclusions and recommendations will be set out in a report to the Scottish Government and Parliament and then a plan will be prepared setting out how they will respond to those assembly recommendations that have been agreed by the parliament.

Kate Wimpress, convener of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, said: “The assembly is something new for Scotland, and it should be a crucial role in embedding a wider participatory agenda into the way we do government.

“This focus on participation is something that has been established since the opening of the Scottish Parliament and successive governments have looked for ways of involving the public in opportunities to influence the decisions that affect their lives and their communities. By the end of this first weekend members will be starting to think about the outlook for the country and how we might be affected by constitutional change. We are at the beginning of journey that allows for us to learn from combined efforts of Assembly members.”

The conveners have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish Government setting out the arrangements in place to allow the Assembly to deliver on its remit independently.

Convener David Martin said: “The assembly is a forum for open-minded deliberation between participants that is fully open to public scrutiny to help ensure that it receives an open-minded response from the parliament and government.

“Citizens’ assemblies are increasingly being used successfully across the world to bring people together to work on complex and contentious issues. It’s an exciting time for democracy in Scotland. We are looking forward to Saturday and building on our proud democratic traditions and successful record in public participation.”

More information on the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland can be found online.