Assembly evidence

All of the work of the Assembly, including the agenda for meetings, the evidence presented at the weekends, key points in discussions and interim outputs prepared on specific topics can be found in the weekend reports and in the recordings of plenary sessions published by weekend. Much of the learning from weekends 1 to 4 was brought together in the interim report and ‘journey so far’ summary papers and in the accompanying videos prepared by the Secretariat in advance of the Assembly reconvening in September.

Annex 7 provides a table of the agenda for each weekend together with a list of the evidence sessions and the outputs that were produced. Annex 8 provides a more detailed account of the evidence of the Assembly, including information on the expert speakers, links to their presentations and the full range of supporting materials that were provided to members in advance of Assembly meetings.

"Each week we’ve been given a piece of that puzzle: to learn and understand and ask questions that will lead us to making decisions at the end. But I’m also getting an understanding of really where the politics lies in all these things. I think before there might have been some kind of bubble over politics, that nobody is able to get in and ask questions, and shake them up! And I think we’re able to do that here. And I feel quite privileged and excited – and energised! - to say: I want to do that. I wouldn’t have done it before."

A shared understanding of facts and figures and engaging in discussion using information that is accurate, trusted and presented in an accessible form is key to a successful Citizens’ Assembly. Only on the basis of deliberation on such evidence can Assemblies come to informed conclusions that those involved can agree are fair, even if not everyone agrees with them. The breadth of the Assembly remit and limits of time meant that it was not possible to explore any single topic in detail and members noted the challenge in making recommendations which have a broad base of evidence to support them. There is no doubt that the process would have been even stronger if it had been possible to investigate issues in more detail.

Nonetheless ensuring the quality, reliability and accessibility of the evidence to be presented was central throughout the process. A key role of the Stewarding group was to help decide on the evidence provided and at an early stage evidential standards were prepared and discussed as part of a wider consideration of using evidence and engaging with trusted sources. Expert speakers were identified in line with the principles and approach set out in the evidential standards. Those invited to present were drawn from a range of reputable organisations and institutions from across the UK. A full breakdown of participating speakers and the evidence given across Assembly weekends is provided in Annex 8.

Members

Given the remit of the Assembly it was not practicable to seek general submission of evidence, which would have been desirable to allow the wider public to contribute to the process. Instead, the Secretariat with advice from the Stewarding group, identified acknowledged experts to provide a range of perspectives on the issues being discussed.

The breadth of the Assembly remit made it important to provide a rich definition of evidence, with all aspects of the Assembly learning journey being relevant. Members were invited to consider evidence as including:

  • General evidence about the country, including the constitutional position, provided by expert witnesses in line with the evidential standards
  • More detailed evidence on the challenges of building a sustainable country and relating to the public finances and tax, including some of the key constitutional aspects of those challenges, provided by expert witnesses in line with the evidential standards
  • Evidence presented on different approaches to the economy, what makes for happiness, and how values influence decision-making, provided by expert witnesses in line with the evidential standards
  • Evidential standards and how to interpret these

As well as learning from these sources, evidence also includes the Assembly experience, including reflections from the skills that members developed, the ‘lived experience’ of Assembly members, and from the discussion with the politicians’ panel about their priorities for action and how decisions are taken in and for Scotland (the Secretariat also prepared a series of ‘horizon-scanning’ materials on the impact of COVID to assist members’ discussions when the Assembly reconvened).

All of these sources of evidence have been part of the Assembly learning journey, which members were encouraged to draw from in preparing recommendations. Members views on the quality and accessibility of evidence and what has been most useful to them in the work have been carefully tracked through the research initiative and published in the weekend data briefings.

Colourful handwriting showing each weekend and the elements
The picture above provides a visual overview of the breadth of evidence

"We felt comfortable enough to challenge each other, and that speaks volumes in terms of how we worked as a team. I know that I changed my opinion a couple of times on the basis of what other people had said."

"It was empowering for me as a Scottish citizen to see that the politicians were actually listening to us. They were being influenced by what we were saying, and not the other way around for a change! And I thought it was quite nice that you got to know them, because they gave you some personal background. So you actually thought "Okay, this is what you’re about."

"It was major amounts of information. Really complex. Challenging, but very interesting."