The planned assembly of 120 ordinary Scots is supposed to look at the way forward for the nation as Holyrood ministers set out plans for a possible second referendum on the constitution in the wake of Brexit.
David Martin, the former Labour MEP chosen to chair the group, yesterday appealed for the Conservatives and Lib Dems to give it another chance after the parties announced they would not work with it.
But attempts to keep the assembly neutral appeared to be underminded when Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh West, shared a video in which she claimed: “I believe this is the perfect way to move Scotland on from the current state of Brexit paralysis created by Westminster and to move us towards independence.”
Scotland in Union (SiU) warned the assembly could be “misused” by only promoting the idea of breaking away from the UK.
The Conservatives’ constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins previously branded the assembly “a Nationalist stunt to kick-start the conversation about independence”.
Pamela Nash, SiU chief executive, said: “Citizens’ Assemblies are growing in popularity throughout the world, and we have remained open minded about the value of this approach in Scotland; any space where the views of the public can be examined and taken into account is to be welcomed.
“However, given the statements from senior SNP politicians, and the SNP’s consistent record of going against previous public consultations, many have expressed concern that the Citizens’ Assembly could be misused.”
Ms Nash continued: “If, before the assembly has been established, the SNP Government is already giving a strong signal that it will not accept the recommendations unless they happen to be in line with its own goal of breaking up the UK, then we cannot see why the Scottish public should have any faith in this process or, indeed, take part.
“If asked, unless evidence emerges that the SNP is prepared to act in good faith, we urge our supporters not to participate in the Citizens’ Assembly.”
Veteran Labour MEP David Martin, who will chair the assembly, has called for Unionists to drop their boycott. “I think that is a very disappointing move,” he said.
“I understand the heat around the whole constitutional issue, but I have taken this on because I believe it is a genuine attempt to find out if there is consensus on some of the controversial issues facing Scotland.”