Campaigners call for ‘national conversation’ around Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly

Posted on the 25th October 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, Friday 25th October. Contact [email protected] / 07717211630 for more information or quotes
  • The Society are hosting a series of public events across Scotland in the next month to debate the Citizens’ Assembly. Contact details above for more information.

The Electoral Reform Society have welcomed the first meeting of Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly taking place this weekend [1] – calling for it to be the start of a ‘national conversation’ on Scotland’s democratic future.

The ERS have urged politicians and the public to engage with it ‘with open minds’. The Society say everything must be done to make the Assembly – which will discuss challenges to Scotland’s future – ‘open, inclusive and listened to.’

Electoral Reform Society Scotland are organising a series of events to discuss the Assembly, raise awareness and open the debate ‘beyond those four walls.’ [First event 5th December – University of Aberdeen].

The ERS have been the leading commentator on the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, holding a 200-strong debate at the University of Edinburgh in July.

In 2017 the Society helped to run a UK-wide Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit [2].

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland, said:

“This weekend will fire the starting gun for Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly. There are many pitfalls but also opportunities and we hope people follow this democratic process closely – and engage with open minds.

Ireland’s citizens’ assembly was government-backed with a commitment to look carefully at the recommendations. The Scottish government have indicated they will do the same and we urge ministers – as they have done so far – to give it the space it needs and then genuinely listen to the conclusions.

“There’ll be political disagreements and technical hiccups, but it’s up to the whole establishment – politicians, media and civil society – to understand that this a whole different approach, beyond party politics and the traditional way of doing things. How they react will have a big effect on whether the assembly can do the job it’s required to do: being a trusted proxy for the citizens.

“In this highly polarised time, the Citizens’ Assembly should be welcomed as a much-needed innovation in democracy. All the binary ways of thinking and focus on personalities – who’s up, who’s down – have to be chucked out the window. This is an inspiring and new way of doing things – let’s engage with it seriously.

“Politicians’ involvement needs to be in the background, and their involvement – and commentary – needs to be careful and considered.

“All this should be combined with a huge public information and engagement campaign to make sure there is a national conversation, beyond the assembly walls and into rooms across the whole of Scotland.”

An ERS (UK) spokesperson added:

“It’s clear that there is a growing appetite for a new kind of democracy. We need to shift the balance of power away from the centre and bring power back to the people. Citizens’ Assemblies like this can play a powerful role in that.

“Citizens need to feel energised and supported by their democracy, but for this to happen, we need representative institutions which are responsive to people’s needs and spaces where citizens can directly engage in politics at different times and levels. We’ll be following this process keenly and with a supportive attitude.”

ENDS

See also: Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly: What can it do to be a success? https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/scotlands-citizens-assembly-what-can-it-do-to-be-a-success/

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland – what can it learn from elsewhere? https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/14481/josiah-mortimer-citizens-assembly-scotland-what-can-it-learn-elsewhere

Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland faces pitfalls and opportunities – Willie Sullivan https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/citizens-assembly-of-scotland-faces-pitfalls-and-opportunities-willie-sullivan-1-4958715

What is a citizens’ assembly? Blog https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/what-is-a-citizens-assembly/

Read the ERS’ briefing on CAs https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/what-are-citizens-assemblies/

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/first-meeting-of-citizens-assembly-to-take-place-in-edinburgh-1-4958832

[2] https://citizensassembly.co.uk/brexit/about/

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