Citizens' Assembly to debate state of Scotland's finances

The Citizens' Assembly is to debate the state of the nation's finances as the Scottish Government-backed forum meets for a fourth time this weekend.

The assembly, which brings together a "representative sample" of more than 100 Scots from across the country, will hear from financial experts on Scotland's current fiscal arrangements and how they could possibly be reformed in the future.

A panel consisting of Russell Gunson, of the Institute of Public Policy Research Scotland, Laurie MacFarlane of University College of London, and Ewan MacDonald-Russell from the Scottish Retail Consortium, will present tax options to members that could help to create a "sustainable society".

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The event, the fourth of a planned six, will take place at a hotel in Clydebank on Saturday and Sunday.

The Citizens' Assembly will meet this weekend to debate the state of Scotland's economy. Picture: Scott Louden

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The forum was set up by Holyrood ministers last year, taking inspiration from similar events in the Republic of Ireland which were used to resolve complex political questions with the input of ordinary members of the public.

But it has faced accusations of partisanship from opposition parties and was rocked when its co-leader, former Labour MEP David Martin, quit for personal reasons last year.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ruled out taking part when the intiative was launched last year.

But Jamie Halco Johnston MSP, a previously outspoken critic of the Assembly, has since participated in a political panel alongside Labour leader Richard Leonard at the forum’s last meeting.

Speaking ahead of its fourth meeting, assembly convener Kate Wimpress said it would be a "tough" for members to get to grips with fiscal issues, but added she was confident they would continue to work together to tackle complex issues head on.

She said: “This Citizens’ Assembly is doing politics differently. It is demonstrating that involving people from all walks of life in complex and challenging topics can produce tremendous insights and fresh perspectives. This stimulates wider debate and can work to deliver valuable and bold outcomes within the political sphere, and for the country as a whole.

“Assembly members have told us they find the weekends challenging, but they have praised the knowledge and input from the experts. I have no doubt the members’ continued commitment, enthusiasm and respect for each other will allow them to rise to the challenge again this weekend.”

The assembly is scheduled to deliver its final report to the Scottish Government in May 2020.