What is the Citizens’ Assembly?
The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland is a group of Scottish citizens who will come together to consider and help find consensus on the future of Scotland. They will consider the following broad questions set out by the First Minister in Parliament in April 2019:
- What kind of country are we seeking to build?
- How can we best overcome the challenges we face, including those arising from Brexit?
- What further work should be carried out to give people the detail they need to make informed choices about the future of the country?
The Assembly will comprise a minimum of 100 members broadly representative of the adult (aged 16+) population of Scotland.
How will it work?
The Assembly will be conducted according to the following principles:
Independence from government: including through the appointment of an impartial and respected convener or co-conveners, an arms-length secretariat, and expert advisory groups.
Transparency: at all levels of the operation of the Assembly, from the framing of the questions, to the selection of members and expert witnesses, through to proactive publication and live-streaming of deliberative sessions and clarity about what the outputs will be used for.
Inclusion: extending not just to those invited to take part as members, but also to the operations of the Assembly itself.
Access: the wider public must be able to see and comment upon the work of the Assembly, and stakeholders must feel that they and their interests have a route into the Assembly.
Balance: the information used to build members’ (and the wider public’s) learning must be balanced, credible and easily understood.
Cumulative learning: embedded into the design of the Assembly, to ensure members develop a rich understanding of the issues considered and have time to do so.
Open-mindedness: the Assembly will be a forum for open-minded deliberation between participants, ensuring the public see it as a genuine process of enquiry, and to help ensure that it receives an open-minded response from the parliament and government.
The Assembly will meet for six weekends between Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020.
Two Assembly co-conveners are being appointed to ensure gender balance and a mix of skills. They will be responsible for:
Stewarding the Assembly, by overseeing the planning arrangements in order that the Assembly delivers its remit.
Convening meetings of the Assembly, by hosting them and contributing to them.
Representing the Assembly, in the media and in public, and speaking on their behalf.
Members will meet to discuss and deliberate on Scotland’s future. The Assembly will comprise a minimum of 100 members of the adult population (aged 16 and over) of Scotland who are randomly selected to serve. They will be broadly representative of Scotland’s adult population in terms of socio-demographic variables and political attitudes/views.
Elected or appointed representatives (including MSPs, MPs, MEPs, councillors and Members of the House of Lords), the staff of political parties, public appointees and senior public and civil servants and the representatives or officials of relevant advocacy groups will all be ineligible to be Assembly members.
Recruitment will be undertaken by a skilled and experienced independent organisation over the course of the summer.
A Secretariat will be established to help the conveners ensure the efficient running of the Assembly. The Secretariat will be staffed by a mixed team of civil servants and people with direct experience in running Citizens’ Assemblies. A range of advisory groups will also be established.
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Michael Russell MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations
“Citizens’ assemblies are becoming an established way for mature democracies to engage with complex and contested issues on an inclusive, informed and respectful basis. That is what we want for Scotland.”
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