This report has been prepared by the Secretariat to the Citizens’ Assembly to summarise the seventh 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.
The Assembly is at a remarkable point on its journey. During the weekend members reflected on the breadth of evidence across the wide range of themes covered since October of last year. It was a genuine pleasure to hear such engaged and nuanced discussions and to observe members confidently sharing their ideas and working together to prepare recommendations.
This weekend the Assembly moved onto the final stage, preparing the draft recommendations to accompany the vision prepared in weekend 6. This report includes the full list of draft recommendations and summarises the processes followed during the weekend. It also sets out the voting process that Assembly members selected for taking the final decisions at our final meeting to come in early December.
Assembly members are rightly proud both of what they have achieved and how they have achieved it. Listening in on the discussions, I was reminded of the instruction from our Makar, Jackie Kay in her poem “Threshold” recited for us at Edinburgh Castle last year to guard Democracy “Like you would a small daughter, / And keep the door wide open, not just ajar”.
There is an important message of hope coming from the Assembly in these uncertain times, which has percolated throughout our proceedings. As we come towards the end of our work I am honoured to have been a part of the Assembly’s achievements. I am confident the members’ conclusions will help chart the way to recovery, post pandemic, and contribute to building the future our citizens want for their country.
Overview and Drafting Process
In weekend 6, members had prepared their final vision of the country, which is their response to the first question in the remit on the kind of country we are seeking to build. This weekend members turned to the next stage of preparing recommendations which respond to the further remit questions on how to overcome the challenges facing the country and the further information required to enable decisions to be taken in the future. These recommendations largely identify priorities for action over the next few years to help achieve the vision in practice. However, they draw on all aspects of the Assembly journey, including learning from the Assembly experience.
In advance of the weekend the Secretariat provided members with an extensive pack of guidance on how to prepare recommendations and an overview of the evidence considered by the Assembly. 15 topics were identified covering discrete aspects of the Assembly vision and wider matters covered over the course of previous weekends. In advance of the discussion members were allocated one of these topics and provided with an explanatory note and jam boards which summarising the evidence considered by the Assembly to date and key points of discussion in previous Assembly sessions relevant to that topic. All of this material, including a list of the topics, can be viewed [HERE]
Over the course of the weekend members came together in small groups to review the evidence and share their ideas on priorities for recommendations. They worked together to agree 2-3 areas to focus on in the topic and prepared the text of recommendations and supporting material describing why the area is important and the evidence for it. By the end of the weekend 60 draft recommendations were prepared and presented to the Assembly.
The text of the recommendations can be seen at annex A.
The recommendations are wide ranging and truly reflect the breadth of the Assembly journey and the range of issues that have been important to members. Amongst the main themes are the following:
How decisions are taken
Recommendations about improving citizen participation, the provision of information and accountability in our political institutions.
Some recommendations explicitly call for further powers, for example, around taxation and to negotiate own trade agreements and manage immigration. Others call for changes in areas that are currently reserved, including on aspects of employment law, incomes and regulation of utilities to support environmental or other objectives.
Building a sustainable country
A range of recommendations about environmental sustainability.
Tax and economy
Recommendations on changes to and improving understanding of the tax system and investing in science and technology innovation
Income and poverty
Recommendations covering a range of action to address poverty including to improve information on poverty and in relation to incomes and employment.
Helping people to realise their potential
A broad range of recommendations, including around education and training for young people, and a range of action around health and wellbeing, the NHS and wider health services and increasing wages for health professionals.
Finalising the recommendations
Final decisions on recommendations will be taken in the final weekend in early December. The processes for those decisions to be taken was agreed by survey monkey vote in weekend 7.
The vote is summarised below and details can be seen at annex B.
Firstly, members were asked to decide between 2 options on how to cast a vote for each recommendation, either:
A) A ‘straight’ vote (support/oppose/no preference); or
B) A ‘scale’ vote (choice of ratings across strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree).
The result of this vote was that Option B - a scale/star rating vote - was the preferred option, gaining support from 58% of total respondents and will therefore be adopted for the weekend 8 voting process.
Secondly, members were asked to decide between 2 options on how the collective vote should reported, either:
A) Only those recommendations with majority support are recommendations.
B) 25%/50%/75% bands of support, with recommendations securing over 75% support reported as “strongly supported”, those receiving over 50% as “supported by a majority” and those that received over 25% as “recommendations supported by a significant minority”.
The result of this vote was that Option B – bands of support – was the most preferred option, gaining support from 42% of total respondents and will therefore be adopted in the agreement and reporting of the Assembly’s formal recommendations.
In virtual terms this has been the best weekend we’ve had by a mile. It was productive, it was logical, rational, well planned and well thought out, well responded to, articulated in very very clear terms and it made sense for the first time in a while. And that’s very fulfilling and very satisfying as an assembly member to witness that progress in action.
This weekend was so intense, I let some emotions out, tears. There was tiredness, feeling of accomplishment. I did have the feeling of exam falling into place. I’m very proud I took part in it, I had my say and I look forward to next weekend.
The standout catch all term that was in my head last night and this morning was re-energised. For me there was a real refocusing, and a reconnection with the work we were doing.
People were confident within themselves...they knew they were allowed to be themselves. They knew they were 'enough' no matter who they were or what their background was.