See answers to common questions about the Citizens' Assembly of Scotland.
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. Assemblies support informed consideration 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 principles to inform policy - for example, Social Security User Panels and the Citizens’ Forums on attitudes to Agriculture.
What are the key features and lessons learned from other models?
We continue to learn from expert advice and other examples, to ensure the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland follows best practice. Experts from Ireland and Brussels were invited to the Scottish Parliament to talk about Citizens’ Assemblies. Examples like the Irish assemblies have been successful in bringing together a diverse range of people on a number of important, contentious and emotive issues. We are also following closely the Citizens’ Assembly undertaken by the Welsh Assembly which has just taken place.
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 principles 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 a Secretariat. There is currently an Invitation to Tender for independent contractors to be appointed to work with the Conveners and the Assembly to support them to decide how to conduct proceedings, what evidence to consider, and how meetings will operate.
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 will be 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?
Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research Ltd was awarded the contract to recruit members of the Citizens' Assembly following a competitive tendering process.
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-demographic variables and political attitudes/views. It is proposed to use of the following socio-demographic variables for stratification purposes, in line with practice in other citizens’ assemblies in the UK:
- Socio-economic group and/or educational qualifications
- Ethnic group
Can people apply to be Assembly members?
No. Members of the Assembly will be randomly selected; they cannot apply to join. The detailed methodology for selecting members is still to be agreed with the contractor, but must meet the criteria set out in the Scottish Government tender document 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 the 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.
Will Assembly members be paid?
Assembly members are making a significant commitment of their time and energy to participate in the Assembly and will be given a gift of thanks of £200 for their attendance at each weekend. As well as demonstrating that the participation and engagement of the members is valued, conclusions from the What Works Scotland Evidence Review (2018) show that financial incentives like this go a long way in supporting traditionally under-represented groups to participate (e.g. those on low incomes, younger people, single parents, and those with caring responsibilities.) It also encourages people not intrinsically motivated by the issues to attend and helps to prevent last-minute non-attendance which could affect the representativeness of the Assembly.
How can others be involved in this important discussion about Scotland’s future?
The work of the Assembly will be open and transparent. We are considering the best way to involve the wider public.
Are the Assembly proceedings going to be open to the press and public?
Decisions are yet to be made about exactly how the Assembly will operate, and some of these will be made by the Assembly members themselves when they first meet. A commitment has already been made in the principles published on this website that the operation of the Assembly will be open and transparent, and that all evidence sessions will be livestreamed. Future decisions about access for observers and the media will need to be made in a way that balances the need to enable free and frank discussion between members, protect the privacy of participants and the legitimate interests of the public in the work they are undertaking.
What is the timetable for the Assembly?
The first meeting will be held in Edinburgh over Saturday 26 October and Sunday 27 October. The next five meetings will take place in Glasgow over the weekends of 29 November to 1 December, 17 to 19 January, 21 to 23 February, 27 to 29 March and 24 to 26 April.