Convener's Blog -February

Kate Wimpress

The Assembly is just at the halfway point now and we are making real progress. Our third meeting last month demonstrated this perfectly. The Assembly is well down the road of developing a shared vision of the kind of country we are seeking to build and in thinking about how we overcome the challenges that we face. It is a demanding process, and members are working extraordinarily hard but enjoying the experience.

The aims of Weekend 3 were to take stock after the General Election (and the holidays), and to start tackling the second question of our remit: How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?

Dr Chris McCorkindale spoke to the Assembly about constitutional issues, including those arising from Brexit and the recent UK General Election. He reminded members of how Scotland’s devolved settlement works and set out the major differences between the governing parties at Westminster and Holyrood around Brexit and Scottish independence. Members put lots of thoughtful and challenging questions to Chris and Dr Alan Renwick, another constitutional expert and member of our Stewarding Group.

All political parties at Holyrood were invited to share thoughts on how Scotland can move forward in a constructive way despite constitutional differences. Angela Constance (SNP), Jamie Halcro Johnston (Conservative), Richard Leonard (Labour), and Lorna Slater (Greens) joined for a lively discussion. Their reflections chimed well with the Assembly’s work as they talked about doing politics differently, including finding new ways to involve citizens, make politics more constructive, respectful and focussed on delivering on behalf of the people they represent.

A major focus for the weekend was to drill down into a statement developed by Members at Weekend 2 and to identify possible actions for making this a reality:

the Scotland we are seeking to build will be a sustainable country balancing environmental, economic and social impacts for the good of the country and its citizens.

This allowed a variety of evidence to be brought into the Assembly. Members heard from three experts on different aspects of sustainability: Sandy Begbie CBE, Dr Katherine Trebeck and Professor Andy Kerr. This sparked a set of really engaging deliberations on how to balance environmental, economic and social concerns.

Members then discussed the range of issues and agreed an initial set of statements they thought could be priority areas for action for building a sustainable Scotland. You can read all of the actions and the full report on the website.

We’ve had lots of interest in our work from within Scotland and further afield – not surprising given this is the first time we’ve ever had a Citizens’ Assembly in Scotland. The Economist, Holyrood Magazine, The Guardian, BBC and Press Association all attended Weekend 3 and spoke to members, steering group members and me. We will highlight articles via our social media as they are published.

Between meetings, I continue to share the work of the Assembly and spoke to ITV Borders and Bauer Radio (which runs stations like Clyde 1, Forth 1, Tay FM and Northsound 1), as well as The National through their Facebook Live platform. I was also pleased to be the keynote speaker at the launch of the Firestarter Festival (which is all about creative innovation in public services) last week. You can see my speech online here.

I really want to thank our committed and enthusiastic Assembly members who have been talking about their experiences, with the media outwith the Assembly weekends too. Anne spoke to the BBC with the Secretary to the Assembly, Ian, and Jackie’s story featured in her local press. We will feature stories like this on social media as they are published.

We continue to share the work of the Assembly on social media. At the moment we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and will soon be launching a YouTube channel (thanks to Martin for the nudge), where we will host all of our video content.

Kind regards, Kate