What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

A citizens’ assembly is a group of citizens who are selected at random from a cross-section of the population to learn about, deliberate upon, and make recommendations on an issue.

The process supports informed discussion and consideration often of a complex or contentious issue.

Have Citizens’ Assemblies been used before?

Citizens’ Assemblies have been used in Ireland, Canada, Australia, Belgium and a number of other countries, and have been used within the UK, including to consider the consequences of Brexit. The Scottish Government has also undertaken exercises along similar principals to inform policy – for example, Social Security User Panels and the Citizens’ Forums on attitudes to Agriculture.

Will the Assembly be run by the Scottish Government?

No. The Scottish Government will appoint the Conveners of the Assembly and work with them to set the remit. The Scottish Government will also provide resources to the Assembly, which includes putting in place the contract for recruitment of members. However, the Assembly will operate entirely independently of Government and in accordance with the design principals that have been published.

How will the Assembly be set up?

The design principles that will shape all aspects of the establishment and conduct of the Assembly have been published on this website. Independent Conveners have been appointed to lead the Assembly and they are supported by an impartial Secretariat. Contractors have been appointed to work with the Conveners and the Assembly to support them in designing and conducting proceedings, considering what evidence to present, and how the Assembly will run overall.

How much is the Assembly costing?

A budget of £1.37 million has been set by the Scottish Government. A breakdown of costs is available here.

Who will sit on the Citizens’ Assembly?

The Assembly will be made up of a minimum of 100 people randomly recruited from across Scotland. The membership have been selected to be broadly representative of the adult population (16 and over) in terms of age, gender, socio-economic class/educational qualifications, ethnic group, geography and political attitudes.

Who will recruit the Members of the Citizens’ Assembly?

Following a competitive tendering process, Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research Ltd was awarded the contract to recruit members of the Citizens’ Assembly.

How will Members be recruited?

The objective of the recruitment is to identify a group of people who broadly reflect the adult population of Scotland in terms of socio-democraphic variables and political attitudes/view. The following socio-demographic variables  for  stratification purposes have been used, in line with practice in other citizens’ assemblies in the UK:

Age, Gender, Educational Qualifications, Ethnic group, Geography, having a life limiting health condition, and voting intention in the Scottish Parliament, with regard to the EU Referendum in 2016 and with regard to the Independence referendum in 2014.

Can people apply to be Assembly members?

No. Members of the Assembly have been randomly selected; people cannot apply to join. The detailed methodology for selecting members has been published on our website with the aim to achieve an Assembly broadly representative of the adult population (aged 16 and over) of Scotland. 

What level of political activity would exclude people from becoming Assembly members?

Elected and appointed representatives (MSPs, MPs, MEPs, councillors and members of the House of Lords), political party staff, public appointees and senior public and civil servants will all be ineligible.

Will Assembly members be supported to attend?

Yes. Assembly members will be able to claim the cost of travel, caring responsibilities and other reasonable expenses agreed in advance.

Accommodation costs for participants will be covered along with all meals during the course of Assembly meetings. The venues used for the Assembly are fully accessible and all accessibility requirements of Assembly members will be taken into account to support their participation. This could include, where needed, providing materials in Braille or large print, sign language interpretation or covering the costs of a carer or personal assistant to attend to support a member.

Can you tell me more about the research?

The research aims to provide learning about the Assembly process to support the delivery of the current Assembly and to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to review and learn from the experience of the Assembly. The specific objectives are:To provide ongoing evaluative evidence about the Assembly process to convenors and the secretariat. To evaluate the success of the Assembly as a model of public engagement in Scotland. To Produce an anonymised research dataset on the Assembly that will be accessible for use by researchers, practitioners and leaders and ensure Scotland’s contribution to the developing global evidence on democratic innovation

This collaborative approach will: 

  • Ensure the independence, impartiality and integrity of the research
  • Produce robust high quality research
  • Contribute Scottish evidence to the international evidence base 

 A report of the research will be completed six months after the Assembly concludes.