This report has been prepared by the Secretariat to the Citizens’ Assembly to summarise the sixth weekend of the Assembly. We hope members find it a useful overview of that weekend. It provides insight for everyone else who is interested in the progress of the Assembly.
Our sixth meeting saw members gathered around the country on a dreich weekend for what was to be a remarkable moment in our national life. Together they worked hard to put together an inspiring collective vision for the kind of country they are seeking to build. This is a major milestone for the Assembly, and it is the first time ordinary citizens have set a course for Scotland in this way. Common ground is hard to find and it needs to be valued wherever it is achieved. Members built consensus across Weekend Six, piece by piece, drawing on all their hard work to date to clarify what values and outcomes matter most. This vision responds to our first remit question and forms the basis for the recommendations to be set.
I look forward to our next meeting on 31 October – 1 November, where members will prepare the recommendations to accompany the vision.
The purpose of weekend 6 was for members to refine the different aspects of their vision for the kind of country we are seeking to build and reach an overall consensus on their response to the first remit question set for the Assembly. This is a culmination of work from throughout the Assembly process and is a key outcome of members’ collective learning journey.
Ahead of the weekend, members volunteered to take part in several workshops to sense-check and feedback on how the work done at weekend 5 had been analysed and presented by the Secretariat, and on the proposed next steps to agreeing a final vision. Papers describing the process for agreeing the vision were shared in advance of the meeting.
At the Assembly weekend members, in small groups, examined what sits at the heart of one of the areas of consensus agreed at weekend 5, and drafted an initial wording to form a part, or element, of the Assembly vision. Members then reviewed the work of other groups, with alternative wording being prepared in some areas, and then voted on their preferred element across all of the areas of consensus. The Assembly then voted on whether or not these elements should be included in the final vision, and lastly on whether to formally adopt the vision.
Some members also began initial scoping work on recommendations, which will be the focus for weekend 7. These recommendations will be a response to remit questions 2 and 3 on how we overcome the challenges facing Scotland and what further information citizens need to take informed decisions. The recommendations will largely be about the action that members agree should be taken to help achieve the vision in practice, although there will also be an opportunity to consider recommendations not directly related to the vision but relevant to the Assembly journey, for example, flowing from the work of weekends 3 and 4 on sustainability and finances and tax and the more general evidence on constitutional matters.
All of the materials for Weekend 6 have been published on the Assembly website, together with a recording of the plenary sessions.
We hope you enjoy reading this report. Our next meeting will be 31 October – 1 November 2020.
Developing the Vision
In weekend 5, members reviewed the previous work of the Assembly and considered the impact of COVID in agreeing 18 final areas of consensus for the Assembly vision (see Weekend 5 Report). These included areas such as: ensuring a more equal and socially responsible country; supporting education and training for all young people; and improving decision-making through citizens’ involvement.
Building on this in weekend 6, they dispersed into groups to look in more detail at one, or in some cases more, of these areas of consensus on the vision. Each group looked at what lies ‘at the heart’ of their area of consensus and they then turned this into the initial draft wording for one part, or element, of the final Assembly vision.
Groups passed on their proposed vision element to another group to suggest rewording or additional points. This process was repeated in a second review to ensure that as many members of the Assembly as possible had the opportunity to contribute to the drafting of different aspects of the vision.
Doing politics differently and finding common ground on complex issues is at the heart of the Assembly process so it was important to ensure that the Assembly vision was agreed by consensus. There were lengthy and at times challenging discussions in preparing the elements of the vision and, as described below, a thorough voting process where a very high bar was set for elements being included in the vision.
Every word of the vision has been prepared and agreed by members. This output is a major achievement. The Assembly has genuine ownership of the vision and each member can rightly take pride in the contribution they have made to preparing it.
Of course some areas which are very important to some members are not included in the final vision statement. Were the work to continue both the scope and wording of the vision would continue to develop and it is important to record that there were very high levels of support for all of the elements voted on, including the areas which did not reach consensus levels of support.
A fuller discussion of the vision statement and the process followed will be set out in the Assembly’s final report.
Adopting the Vision
This section describes the decision-making process for the Assembly vision.
Taking decisions online with a range of options and voting stages involved is not straightforward and careful consideration had been given to the voting process. Most of the votes were conducted via a secure ‘survey monkey’, with the final vote taken by ZOOM poll. The published papers for the weekend describe the voting procedures in more detail.
This approach ensured an accessible and transparent process which protected members’ confidentiality and allowed plenty of time to make choices. Technical support was provided to those who needed it to make sure that everyone who wished to vote was able to do so.
Round 1 of voting took place on Saturday afternoon and involved choosing between alternative wording options for the elements of the vision. 11 of the 18 elements were considered in this round with the preferred text moving to the Round 2 vote.
Round 2 of voting covered all 18 elements – the 7 elements where no vote in round 1 was required and the 11 where the preferred element was determined in round 1. Voting opened at the end of Saturday and closed during the Sunday morning session. This round of voting was a key point in determining the content of the vision; only those elements where 90% of members who expressed an opinion supported the element were deemed to have secured consensus and therefore were included in the proposed vision statement. At this stage 5 elements reached this threshold.
Given the very high threshold for consensus it was important to ensure that members had the opportunity to review statements which had secured a high level of support to consider whether an adjustment could be made that might enable consensus to be reached. This review and round 3 voting on these ‘near miss’ elements took place on Sunday morning. 9 of the remaining 13 elements were considered in this process and 5 of these secured 90% support in the round 3 vote and were therefore included in the vision statement.
All 10 elements securing 90% consensus were then read out and a final round of voting, Round 4, took place on whether the vision statement should be adopted by the Assembly. This vote required only majority support, but 97% of voting members were in favour demonstrating the overwhelming level of support across the Assembly for the final vision statement.
All of the elements voted on and the results of each poll can be viewed here.
The Assembly Vision
The vision statement runs as follows (in no particular order):
• The Scotland we want to see should lead with integrity, honesty, humility and transparency, in a self-sufficient and innovative way, and actively include the people of Scotland in decision making.
• Authorities have a duty to publish information that is valid, accurate, reliable, verifiable and accessible to all.
• The Scotland that we would want to see would be leaders in innovation, with an obligation to invest in people to create jobs, confidence, development and growth.
• Scotland should be a country where the people of Scotland have properly resourced and managed health & social care services, built around individuals and communities to achieve good health and wellbeing for all.
• In order to achieve a better standard of living and opportunities for all we must invest in accessible, relevant training, support and improved income through a realistic living wage.
• Scotland should be a country where all taxes are simplified and made more proportionate so that everyone is taxed accordingly; taxation is transparent and understandable; measures are introduced to minimise tax avoidance: and companies are incentivised to adopt green values.
• Scotland should be a country where people are supported out of poverty by identifying and removing barriers to employment, education and housing.
• Scotland should be a country where the people and government communicate with each other honestly and respectfully; whilst working together with concise and factual information, based on openness and accountability.
• The Scotland we want to see will provide support, education, growth opportunities and security for all young people to realise their potential, both physically and mentally, regardless of their background with a view to securing their future and that of our country.
• Scotland should be a country where we encourage and support everyone to reach their full potential through support and training. Providing fair and equality-driven opportunities, through personal development, with a focus on life and vocational skills, apprenticeships and hands-on experience.
The weekend brought together all the work and all the words that we’ve considered over various weeks, and represent the view of the people of Scotland as represented by the Citizens’ Assembly. We were trying to distil all the work down into meaningful, powerful and actually achievable statements. Because we could write to the moon, but actually what we need is to have a document that tells our citizens, politicians, managers and authorities what it is we think is important.
It’s not easy to reach consensus. We’re talking about 90% agreement and that makes it very reliable, very authentic, and valid. You can’t just dismiss it with the wave of a hand. This was the people of Scotland speaking
What we shared was remarkable. Even with all the differences – and there are many huge differences in terms of unionists or nationalists or partisans – there are certain core values, beliefs and principles that we share. We’ve been through a process where we’ve actually agreed what the priorities are and what the principles are that we want to build on.
Sometimes you sit at a table and get so frustrated, but at other times you feel so humbled by what you’ve learned at this Assembly. We’ve all learned to be more patient and tolerant. Every group I’ve been in we’ve come to an agreement at the end and nobody has left on bad terms and I think that’s proof that this works. We care about each other and this country.
What is the kind of Scotland we want to see in the future? One of our group just found out the gender of their child and it made it that much more powerful, because we know what we were talking about is that child’s future.
The opportunity we’ve been given here to take forward is amazing because we can have an input into a variety of topics that Scotland needs to adjust, address or support in a better way.