Assembly remit and Terms of Reference

Our Journey So Far

The Assembly was established by the Scottish Government but has operated entirely independently under the stewardship of a Convener. The Assembly remit and terms of reference set out the main requirements of the Assembly and how it should operate. These were determined by the Scottish Government and published on the 27 August 2019. They are published here and included in this report at Annex 1. The remit and terms of reference were complemented by a memorandum of understanding agreed between the Convener and the government covering practical arrangements and resourcing. This memorandum is also published here and included in this report at Annex 2. The remit sets out the following topics to be addressed by the Assembly:

  • What kind of country are we seeking to build?
  • How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
  • What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

The remit set out that it was for the Assembly to decide which specific challenges to consider and asked that in doing so that the constitutional arrangements for dealing with those challenges and options for constitutional reform be examined. It required the Assembly to produce a report with recommendations and submit this to the Government and Parliament. It explains how the Government will respond to the report, including through a parliamentary debate and a published plan on how the recommendations will be taken forward. The Assembly terms of reference include practical requirements for operations, including the number of meetings, overall timetable, roles and responsibilities for delivery and member recruitment.

Attached to the remit and terms of reference are a set of key principles. These were developed by the Government in partnership with experts on the delivery of citizens’ assemblies and draw on extensive knowledge and experience of similar initiatives. The principles have been a constant reference point throughout the Assembly journey and along with the other requirements of the remit and terms of reference, are crucial to understanding Assembly design and delivery.

The principles are:

  1. Independence from government: including through the appointment of impartial and respected Conveners, an arms-length Secretariat, and expert advisory groups
  2. 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
  3. Inclusion: extending not just to those invited to take part as members, but also to the operations of the Assembly itself
  4. 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
  5. Balance: the information used to build members’ (and the wider public’s) learning must be balanced, credible and easily understood
  6. 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
  7. 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