Roles and responsibilities in Assembly delivery
The Scottish Government appointed Conveners to lead the Assembly. This followed the approach taken in Ireland, and was intended to provide additional assurance on the Assembly’s independence from government. The Conveners, who are not Assembly members, were responsible for:
- Stewarding the Assembly by overseeing the planning arrangements to ensure the Assembly delivers its remit
- Convening meetings of the Assembly by hosting and contributing to them
- Representing the Assembly in the media and in public
The Assembly Convener is Kate Wimpress. Kate has an extensive background in community engagement and cultural initiatives, and has worked for arts and social justice organisations across Scotland and Northern Ireland. Trained in Fine Art and European Cultural Planning, Kate is currently the Director of North Edinburgh Arts and Chair of Scotland’s Regeneration Forum. Further details about Kate are included at Annex 3. Until December 2019 when he stepped down for personal reasons, the Scottish politician David Martin was co-Convener.
The Convener is supported by a Secretariat primarily staffed by civil servants seconded from the Scottish Government. The Secretariat is responsible for day to day operations, member liaison, management of contracts and resources, liaison with witnesses and the preparation of materials and reports.
The Stewarding group consisted of a group of independent experts and advisers who were mainly tasked with providing advice and support to the Convener. The group generally met on a monthly basis. Details of the membership and remit of Stewarding group members is is included at Annex 4.
Members Reference Group
Once the Assembly was firmly established a Members reference group was put in place. Membership of the group was voluntary and initially was undertaken on a rotating basis. After the Assembly reconvened in the summer an open invitation was extended to all members to participate and the group subsequently met on a weekly basis. A core group of members consistently attended the group, a commitment which required substantial additional time from them. This group has provided invaluable insights on the Assembly experience and significantly contributed to the delivery of the Assembly.
All of the political parties represented in the parliament, with the exception of the Liberal Democrats, provided a representative to participate in a panel. The panel members attended the 3rd meeting of the Assembly during which they engaged in discussion about political priorities and how politics is conducted in Scotland (members of the political panel in weekend 3 were: Angela Constance, SNP; Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservatives; Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour and; Lorna Slater, Scottish Greens). A further meeting with the panel was due to take place in weekend 5 but did not take place due to COVID. The discussion with panel members was important to Assembly members’ deliberations (93% of members found the political panel ‘very much’ or ‘quite a lot’ helpful for their learning in weekend 3).
Assembly design and facilitation
A range of contractors have provided specialist services to the Assembly. All contracts were awarded by the Scottish Government in compliance with public procurement rules. Contract management was undertaken by the Secretariat.
A design and facilitation contract was awarded to a partnership between The Democratic Society (Demsoc), Involve and Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research Ltd (MDCR) (now the Diffley Partnership). Demsoc have extensive experience of delivering stakeholder engagement and citizens’ participation events. Examples include delivering the Innovation in Democracy Programme and the European Citizens Panel. Involve is a leading public participation charity who have designed and delivered many of the citizens’ assemblies that have taken place in the UK, including the Citizens’ Assembly for Wales, the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland and the UK Climate Assembly. MDCR is a social research provider with experience in all kinds of qualitative research.
The partnership was responsible for the design and delivery of Assembly meetings, working closely with the Secretariat and the Convener. Responsibilities included providing a team of facilitators sourced from 3 partner organisations and subcontracted from the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC). The SCDC is a leading body for community development in Scotland. At weekends 1 to 4 there were 14 table facilitators working with groups of around 8 to 9 members. Online working in weekends 5 to 8 was undertaken in smaller groups, with 16 table facilitators.
Digital and PR services
Digital services were provided by Whitespace, who designed the Assembly website and many of the online resources. Through Whitespace, filming services were provided from Glocast, including livestreaming of Assembly plenary sessions. In addition 3x1 were initially appointed as the PR agency for the Assembly, tasked with developing the Assembly’s profile and building awareness amongst stakeholders and the media in the initial Assembly phase.