Local MSP Tom Arthur has welcomed news that transparency, inclusivity and independence from government will underpin the new Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland.
Made up of 100 members of the public, the Assembly will be overseen by two independent co-conveners, be able to call on expert witnesses and have its own secretariat. Deliberative sessions will be live streamed and evidence published.
Two Assembly co-conveners are being appointed to ensure gender balance and a mix of skills and a detailed remit for the Assembly will be published over the summer when the co-conveners are in post.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out three broad questions the Assembly should consider:
- What kind of country are we seeking to build?
- How can we overcome the challenges Scotland faces, including Brexit?
- How can people be given the detail they need to make informed choices about Scotland’s future?
Assembly members will be randomly selected by an independent contractor and be broadly representative of Scotland’s adult population according to age, ethnic group, socio-economic background, geography and political attitudes. They will receive expenses and a thank you gift of £200 per weekend in recognition of their commitment.
The Assembly will meet over six weekends from late Autumn to Spring 2020.
Tom Arthur SNP MSP for Renfrewshire South, said: “The SNP Government is determined that the people of Scotland are supported to make choices about the future of their country.
“A Scottish Citizens’ Assembly represents a clear opportunity for the people of Scotland to contribute to positive steps towards a better collective future.
“Where there is interest, people will have the opportunity to submit evidence. I hope this will create a dynamic discussion and would encourage my constituents to get involved in this initiative when the time comes.”
In a statement to Parliament, Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said: “It is important that the Assembly is clearly seen to be independent when reflecting on the debate that Scotland needs.
“This Parliament is rightly proud of the first 20 years of our reconvened existence. But democracy does not stand still. We have to keep innovating in order to keep moving. When we see, in the Brexit issue, a complete breakdown in trust between politicians and people, surely it should inspire all of us, no matter our political allegiance, to find new ways to bring politicians and people together to resolve deep-seated division.
“Citizens’ assemblies are becoming an established way for mature democracies to engage with complex and contested issues on an inclusive, informed and respectful basis. That is what we want for Scotland.”