It’s time to put deliberation at the heart of Scottish politics

Jon Narcross, former Communications Officer

Posted on the 12th December 2020

Last Saturday the final session of the Citizen’s Assembly of Scotland concluded. The assembly, the largest deliberative event in Scotland’s history brought together ordinary people to deliberate over the issues that will shape Scotland.

As we all wait to see the final outcomes of the process, setting out a shared vision for Scotland’s future, we cannot allow ourselves to fall back into the old ways of doing politics.

Now more than ever, Scotland’s success depends upon the power of people working together to tackle the real challenges – whether that’s on the economy, Brexit, climate change or healthcare.

The Citizens Assembly for Scotland was commissioned because we all benefit when people here work together to identify problems – and create a vision for how to improve our nation’s quality of life.

We’ve seen the power of ordinary people coming together, given the time and space to deliberate, negotiate and discuss the big issues that affect us all.

But right now, decisions about us are not made with us. Too often the we feel locked out outside of election time. Democracy isn’t just putting a cross in the ballot box every five years – it’s feeling like all of us have a permanent stake in how decisions are made.

That’s why, ERS Scotland and other grassroots democracy groups in Scotland are proposing a permanent deliberative assembly that could ‘level up’ Scottish democracy – a ‘House of Citizens’ to complement Holyrood’s existing chamber.

The second chamber – drawn from a ‘democratic lottery’ – could represent Scotland’s full range of experience and talent and is an idea overwhelmingly backed by representatives of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, by 83%.

This week exclusive polling by YouGov revealed that support for the House of Citizens proposal among Scots outnumbers opposition by around 3 to 1,  with 45% backing the plans, to just 14% opposed – support spread across all major parties – including an overall majority of Labour and SNP supporters.

Another poll earlier this year revealed that support for institutionalising Citizen’s Assemblies is higher in Scotland than the rest of GB, with a majority of Scots supporting establishing Citizens’ Assemblies to inform the decisions of local councils and even replacing the House of Lords with a rotating Citizens’ Assembly.

Working with Common Weal, Royal Society of Arts and the Sortition Foundation we’ve helped map out how a House of Citizens could work in practice and asking you to sign our petition to back the change.

A House of Citizens would represent a shining example of trust in our communities when compared to Westminster’s fully appointed House of Lords, It would exist to inform and challenge the decisions of parliament, selected by ‘democratic lottery’ – and it would reflect the make-up of Scotland in terms of things like age, ethnicity, gender and income.

A House of Citizens would bring together Scottish people from all walks of life, to lay down new tracks or update our destination along the way. That will get us where we need to be – a better future for everybody.

Photo: Rab Lawrence, Flickr

Sign our petition for a Scottish House of Citizens

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