Member Diaries – Weekend 1 – Jackie Curran and Marie Nicholson

Jackie Curran and Marie Nicholson

25-26 October 2019

Before the event
We noticed each other on the train but when talking afterwards confessed that we didn’t want to approach each other in case we weren’t allowed to discuss the Assembly with other people! It was only when we both got off at Haymarket trundling our overnight cases behind us that Marie ventured to say, “Are you going to the Citizens’ Assembly?”

Thus did we become “newbie mates!”

What were we thinking?
Marie’s a social buddy so she was looking forward to meeting people but worried that she wouldn’t know enough about politics to be of any use. I, too, thought I’d be found out for my ignorance of political matters but I was interested to find out what it was all about. I knew there were other Assemblies going on but to be honest I didn’t make the time to find out anything about them.

Arrival at the venue
This was so well organised and we agreed that we were both very impressed with the way registration was carried out. We were given our group number and our luggage taken care of. Little “getting to know you” conversations were starting up and the Secretariat team circulated and as far as we could see made sure that everyone had everything they needed. 

Opening session
There were no problems with getting to our allocated tables and meeting with our facilitators. Lots of explanations about how the Assembly came about, the fact that it wasn’t allied with a particular political party (I wasn’t too sure I believed that bit!) and then who was who. Conveners, secretariats, reporters, camera men, who had a voice and who didn’t, and I began to think this might be quite a serious affair!
Marie didn’t say much about this bit except that she thought she’d sit back, take it in and reserve her judgement. 

We were both reassured by the fact that we were a right mixed bunch in the room. There appeared to be a mix of age groups, people with disabilities and people with a variety of ethnic backgrounds. 

Afternoon session
It was interesting to hear the different views shared round the table. One thing for sure, we’re a patriotic bunch! Facilitators did a great job gathering information and helping us to reach a consensus about which were the most important points to us. 

Room check in and evening event
Room check in and retrieval of luggage went smoothly for both of us. Meals were served efficiently given the large numbers which had to be served. I had to check both times about suitable food for me (I have coeliac disease) but was unfortunately given wrong information. Marie didn’t particularly enjoy her meals but agreed we couldn’t expect table service in these circumstances. 

The castle was very impressive but I didn’t manage to hear any of the speeches because I had consumed gluten and felt unwell. Marie who DID enjoy the first two speakers elected to accompany me back to the hotel along with one of the secretariats.

Sunday morning 
Once again registration and the handling of luggage was efficiently done and we found ourselves in two other groups. This pleased me because I had been concerned that if we were always in the same group strong personalities could influence others and we wouldn’t get a proper result from the workshops. 

Looking back now, our general opinion is that the first presentation was a bit boring and the second one extremely interesting. I was surprised and proud to learn that we’re still a very well educated country but shocked that I seemed to be the only one at my table who already knew about the very poor life expectancy of people in the east of Glasgow. Marie says she couldn’t believe we have 170 different languages being spoken here in Scotland and she always knew we were smart! Both our groups enjoyed very lively discussions during this session and once again the facilitators did a great job. 
Thank you also to whoever made sure the meal choices were clearly marked at lunch time. 
What now?
Marie has been watching political programmes and debates on TV and has a notebook full of notes! I’m carrying on as before but have to admit that I realised at the last meeting on Sunday morning that I actually have strong opinions and I was the one who was worried about other people having strong opinions! 
We both agree that we’re really delighted to be part of the Assembly and are looking forward to our next weekend.