Calls for MSPs to open up Scottish decisions to local communities

One of the proposals set out in the report is the creation of a House of Citizens scrutinising legislationOne of the proposals set out in the report is the creation of a House of Citizens scrutinising legislation
One of the proposals set out in the report is the creation of a House of Citizens scrutinising legislation
MSPs should take forward calls to revamp Scottish democracy by opening up decisions to local communities, according to a coalition of community and civil society groups.

The Citizens Assembly Report, which recommends the creation of new local assemblies, and a House of Citizens scrutinising parliamentary legislation, is due to be debated at Holyrood today.

Led by the Electoral Reform Society Scotland, a group of other campaigners including the Scottish Community Alliance and What Works Scotland, have written an open letter to MSPs urging them to follow the recommendations in the report.

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The report issues 60 recommendations backed backed by the assembly – an organisation set up in 2019 of a group of people selected at random from a cross section of the population.

The recommendations include an unpaid “citizens' committee” in the Scottish Parliament, which would offer advice and opinions on government proposals, review the work of Parliament and hold the government to account.

Other recommendations include the creation of community-based citizens' assemblies to assess what is happening in communities, including the effects of the pandemic, and taking action to make communities more inclusive.

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The Citizens’ Assembly also said it wanted to encourage MSPs to act on the views of their constituents, “rather than sticking with party lines”. The body said they should actively consult with constituents on matters which may have an impact on their community.

Willie Sullivan, director of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland (ERSS), said: “The Citizens’ Assembly showed Scotland can lead the way in building a stronger, more community-led democracy – with citizens themselves shaping the path forward for Scotland after this pandemic. But MSPs must do more than debate the findings – they must take forward proposals to boost scrutiny and transparency, and open up decision-making to local communities. From new local assemblies, to a House of Citizens scrutinising legislation, politicians can start to share power and ensure that as we come out of this crisis, everyone has a stake in shaping what comes next.

“It’s abundantly clear that people want a clearer say in shaping their areas, and we need to see a vision for local democracy taken forward by MSPs that captures this. Despite the pandemic the Citizens’ Assembly was able to continue and make really powerful, creative recommendations for moving politics outside of town halls and into communities. The report must not be marked ‘job done’ – it’s a blueprint for a renewed Scotland, drawing on all this country’s experience.”

In the letter, the group said: “The 60 proposals for Scotland’s future provide a template for more accountable ways of doing politics here – for democracy to be genuinely local, grassroots, and not just an event every five years. Assembly members of all backgrounds were clear that more needs to be done in Scotland to move power out of Holyrood and into local communities.

“The assembly overwhelmingly recommended – with 90 per cent support – establishing community-based citizens' assemblies as we come out of the current crisis, a recommendation we wholeheartedly endorse. These would hold councils to account between elections and let residents shape their area’s future.

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“We urge all parties to listen to the assembly, and people across Scotland, and do something brave – share power, and give everyone a stronger stake in deciding what comes next.”

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