02.12.19

Member Diaries - Weekend 1 - Benedict Amamize

Author
Benedict Amamize

Day 1 - October 26th, 2019

What a busy and emotional day it was! Tired, but happy to be among the 120 members that have been invited to participate in Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland. First of its kind in Scotland, we were told. 

Well, I’m aware that forums like this have been held and used in different places around the world (under different names. My county of birth, called it the “National Conference”) and have achieved brilliant results. Hurrah, I’m part of history!   Before today, (the first meeting), I appeared to have a vague idea of what to expect- not very sure of what it would look like and what was generally expected of me (us).

Anyway, I’m back to my hotel room now; generously provided by the Assembly. Very thoughtful of them, you see! The hotel is good. Everyone here seems helpful. Yeah, reflecting now…, I think the first day of the meeting had really gone well. The organisers must have put in much into the planning. I have not seen that many people in an event before. Oh Christ! Hundred and twenty of us; travelled from far and near.  The atmosphere was electrifying. There are many of us. We were all different. What a mix! I thought.  Different accents, colours, age, socio-economic background, education, gender, and physical mobility. What a spread! What a diversity. The conveners and researchers must have gone a great deal to use the stratified sampling technique (you see! I still remember that. Amazing how humans remember what they learned ages ago) to achieve such brilliant representation for the assembly.   

I must say that getting registered wasn’t the easiest. There were many of us and it was the first meeting. But the organisers and researchers were all ready. I think so. They were determined, resolute and resilient to succeed. They appeared to us politely assuring everyone that all will soon be attended to. Event pack, luggage, name tags, and accommodation were all soon sorted, and the historic meeting commenced…

We all got into our discussion groups. Groups had been indicated on each member’s event pack. Great organisation!

I will like to say again that the groups are very diversified. In my group for instance, there was a 17-year-old and a great granny!  Every group had a facilitator to direct discussions. They were knowledgeable and polite.

I didn’t know what my role was and neither did anyone. But we were soon told that ours was to discuss and reach agreement on (difficult) issues affecting Scotland with a view of understanding and learning lessons on what we want of Scotland of our dream. Hmmm, that sounds great, don’t you think?

Setting the rules for discussions

I am of the opinion that it was good that it was us members that set the rules for the discussions. And we all agreed to abide by the rules. Prominent among the rules were to be polite, mindful of the language we use, do not dominate discussion, respect others opinion and remember that everyone should have a voice. It went well as folks were very mindful and kept reminding self of keeping to the rules. Discussions were engaging and robust, though opinions varied. There were many concerns and revelations. Members spoke their minds. Opinions were passionate and varied. But it was brilliant to see the passion and love everyone seems to have for the country-Scotland.  

The paperwork was murder! There were loads of paperwork to do. I groaned. Everyone groaned! No assumptions and nothing seemed to have been taken for granted as papers were filled and signed; ranging from consent forms to some personal data. Too many information to take in, we struggled but managed. The presentations were brilliant and many revelations on the Constitutional position of Scotland- ‘devolution’ it was called. I will surely be writing on that as the meetings progress.  We survived. All for Scotland! 

I must give credit to the organisers for sumptuous lunch and dinner. They were both brilliant and varied; Just like the composition of the assembly.  Much to choose from. 

Diary, now I have to talk about the reception at the Castle. It’s a secret! We were treated like dignitaries. Wine, nibbles and great music. I’ve been in the castle before but never in this gallery. Only used as receptions for important dignitaries! We are important…I’m important. Don’t tell anyone. It’s still a secret!

Anyway, it was braw. Everyone was happy. Now back to my cosy hotel room to rest my bulk in preparation for tomorrow. Zzzzzzz, off I sleep. I must have snored. I snore when tired.

 

Day 2 - October 27th, 2019

Dear Diary, 

The 2nd day of the Assembly. A quick shower and some grooming before I headed off for breakfast and day’s registration.

Registration was easier and smoother than yesterday’s. I am and I think others as well, are more relaxed now. Breakfast was great.

Presentation and discussion

I was in a different group; so was everyone, I think. At this rate, I reckon, I would have met all members before the Assembly ends!  Group members were still very varied. Everyone was polite and discussion was robust. Loads of information were given on Scotland and an honest and passionate discussion on the Scotland of our dream. Hmmm, there was consensus: a Scotland where everyone will be treated equally, irrespective of creed, political belief or colour and full of opportunities and support for everyone!

How to spend a day. A day well spent. That was a braw! The first meeting has finally come to an end. So much excitement; I went pumping a few hands. So did many people; hugging and shaking hands. Great atmosphere. I was happy. History is being made here.

…and just then, wow, a member of the secretariat has just approached me to ask if I wouldn’t mind writing the diary! 

“…Mind?” I have answered.

“Of course, I don’t mind at all! 

It’s all for Scotland”.

See you at the next meeting in November for more robust discussions on the Scotland of our dream where we may “agree to disagree or disagree to agree”. …I don’t seem to remember the structure now! Anyway, I (We) certainly look forward to our next meeting.

See you in Glasgow, folks!  

About the Author:

I am Benedict Amamize, 51 years old. An African migrant. I am a teacher from Livingston.

I decided to be part of Citizens’ Assembly as part of my integration into the society. Scotland is a great country and any discussion or sacrifice to make it even greater, will be a worthwhile venture. 

Having the Assembly is a sensible thing to do because the world is changing fast; countries and people are repositioning. Thus, to sit and do nothing is no option. We the people of Scotland have to engage in discussions and come to agreements on how best to reposition our beloved country in a changing world.