Conveners’ Blog – 5th November
David said that in his remarks over the weekend, and that’s still the feeling we have a week later! The enthusiasm in the room was palpable, as members met together for the first time and recognised the unique opportunity that being part of this Assembly presents.
Before weekend one, we spoke about what we wanted to achieve by the end of the weekend. And we had a few things on our list.
We wanted to meet and welcome Assembly members, get to know them, them to know us and the Secretariat. We wanted members to begin to understand the deliberative process, and the cumulative learning journey they will go on and shape. We also wanted to begin to understand member’s views on the broad topics to be explored by the Assembly.
In our view, these aims were more than met, and our hopes for weekend one surpassed. The positive messages we got across the weekend reassured us that the Assembly members have the energy and willingness to take up this challenge.
Members shared with us their hopes and fears for the Assembly, both in terms of process and outcome. Kate sought to address some fears voiced by empathising with the uncertainty of starting out on a journey, particularly when the destination is still to be decided. There was also a hope that the Citizens’ Assembly makes a difference. We hope it does. Both of us truly feel that being part of the Assembly provides a great opportunity both for members and the wider Scottish public, and we are excited to have made a start.
We continue to raise awareness of the Assembly and the journey members are on. On Saturday Kate and David spoke to the BBC. Kate also had interviews with the National newspaper and STV over the weekend. We’re continuing to make connections and it was really important and enjoyable to speak to so many of the Assembly members throughout the weekend.
At the Edinburgh Castle reception on Saturday evening, Mike Russell stated how important the task of the Assembly was and that it will set the agenda for discussion about the future of the Country. As he has done before, he reiterated the independence of the Assembly, agreed when we started as Convenors, saying to the Members “it is over to you now”, which was both reassuring and daunting! Finally, he stated the commitment the Scottish Government had made to acting on its recommendations, including laying the final report and recommendations in Parliament.
Another speaker, Louise, gave her perspective as a member of the Irish citizens’ Assembly and talked through her journey. The final speech of the evening was from Jackie Kay, Scotland’s Makar, who read two of her poems. All their words were warmly received by the Assembly members, who felt the event was a fitting marker for the important work to come.
On Sunday Professor Nicola McEwen gave us an informed overview of Scotland’s current constitution. Through facilitated discussion, members asked a number questions which we posed to Nicola through a panel session. The variety and scope of the questions submitted demonstrated that her session had clearly sparked discussion and further questions in the room. We can tell there are still questions here and it is a matter that we will return to. We provided our own overview of some of the facts and figures on Scotland, in a session titled “the Scotland you know, the Scotland you don’t know”. This session enabled members to learn more about the current demographics of Scotland in the context of the membership of the Assembly. This led onto a session where members started to consider what they value about Scotland as we start to turn to the first question in the remit.
A number of the sessions over the weekend were recorded and you can watch these sessions through the Citizens’ Assembly website. Other outputs from the Assembly will also be online soon. Coverage of the meetings will be able to be viewed for the other meetings on our there too. We want to ensure that we reach out to the citizens of Scotland outside the room to enable them to understand the learning and deliberation process that members are undertaking. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that the Assembly adheres to our principles and, in particular, be accessible and act with transparency.
We would encourage the citizens of Scotland outwith the room to continue to follow our journey and, through our social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and via our website.
We look forward to welcoming the Assembly Members back and progressing the conversation at weekend 2.
Kate and David
Conveners of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland