A Citizen’s Assembly

July 3, 2019 1:18 PM
By Stuart Smith

The Scottish Government have recently announced (https://www.citizensassembly.scot/) they will arrange to conduct a "citizen's assembly" to discuss the future of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats party leader has indicated they will not participate in this exercise as they believe it is just a "whitewash" with the results being ignored if it says in it's not in favour of independence. Of course this is not party policy as it hasn't been discussed at conference, it's just a statement from the party leader. And it's a statement the local party does not agree with. We are in favour of co-operating with other people on an issue by issue basis. We are in favour of looking into this type of process to answer important questions and make decisions on them. We should engage in constructive criticism to ensure the process is robust enough to meet everyone's needs and not take part in "knee-jerk reactions" to suit a "political purpose".

A citizen's assembly is formed to deliberate on issues of national importance and propose answers to these issues through rational and reasoned discussion. The membership of that assembly is randomly selected. The conclusion may require a referendum to be conducted before the results are implemented. But, this may depend on what level of government these assemblies take place at. They don't need to be at government level but taken down to local authority council.

The people who take part are chosen so they reflect the wider population - in terms of demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).

Governments or administrations should only be involved in setting these up and providing funds and accepting the results. The actual process of the assembly should be organised independently of the administration. Groups that could be involved in arranging this are Involve (https://www.involve.org.uk/), Unlock Democracy (https://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/), Electoral Reform Society Scotland (https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/), What Works Scotland (http://whatworksscotland.ac.uk/). That would help ensure independence of the entire process. Meetings could be held on-line and, importantly in person at times and venues accessible to many people.