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by Louise Wilson
13 January 2021
Call for more citizen engagement in shaping Scotland

Image credit: Chris Watt for the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland

Call for more citizen engagement in shaping Scotland

The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament must engage more regularly with citizens to shape the future of Scotland, the citizens’ assembly report has concluded.

Its recommendations include setting up a ‘house of citizens’ which could scrutinise government proposals and give assent to parliamentary bills, similar to a second chamber.

However, membership of this body would be time limited and selected at random to represent the population of Scotland.

The 60 recommendations voted on by the members will now go to the Scottish Government for further consideration.

The assembly called for a mechanism for citizens to review existing legislation and the establishment of “mini assemblies” which would consider specific community issues or topics.

Jacqueline Curran, one of the members of the assembly, said: “For local issues we could create mini assemblies, so that things can be discussed by the people that things actually have an impact on. I think that’s where it could start, local life, local communities working, doing the kind thing.

“Community can do a lot of work just on their own, we just need a bit of backing to do it.”

The citizens’ assembly was launched in 2019 to consider what kind of country Scotland wanted to be and how it should overcome challenges.

It included over 100 people across Scotland from a variety of backgrounds, representing a “mini Scotland”.

In addition to engagement, the report makes recommendations on income and poverty, tax, young people, sustainability, health and wellbeing, and the devolution of further powers.

Paul Dowd, another member, said: “What I would like to see happen with the assembly is the same effort and commitment matched by all the members of the Scottish Parliament doing the same.

“It would be a tragedy if the document was just kept on a shelf and nothing was to happen.

“And for me personally, if one person is lifted out of poverty, if a young person gets an apprenticeship in a deprived area, a future house built, if they start looking at renewable energy, then I know myself that I’ve made a small contribution.”

Other recommendations supported by a majority of members include making the living wage a legal requirement, banning zero-hours contracts, tackling tax avoidance, investigating the prospect of a four-day work week, devolving immigration and bringing in a universal basic income.

Convener Kate Wimpress said: “Our members made up a mini Scotland and worked hard together over many months to find common ground. I’m delighted that the assembly’s report offers such a positive vision for our future and a set of bold and imaginative recommendations.

“This is not a box ticked, or a full stop, but a beginning, opening up a new chapter in our democracy with citizens at its heart. It puts Scotland at the forefront of democratic innovation globally.”

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