Origin in the Climate Change Act

Scotland’s Climate Change Act was first passed into law in 2009. In September 2019, the Act was amended with new targets (including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2045). At the same time, an amendment to establish a citizens’ assembly on climate change received unanimous cross-party support.

Some arrangements were set out in the Act - the Assembly should be representative of the people of Scotland; it should have two conveners who are in dependent of the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament; and before the first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly, Scottish Ministers should lay before the Scottish Parliament a report on the arrangements for the administration and operation of the Assembly.

In September 2020 Ministers published a report outlining the governance arrangements for Scotland’s Climate Assembly, including the role of the secretariat, Stewarding Group and sponsorship of the Assembly by officials within Scottish Government’s Climate Change Division. A Memorandum of Understanding between the secretariat and Scottish Government officials sets out the arrangements to ensure that the Assembly delivers on its remit independent of Government, has the resources it requires and is run to high standards of public administration, using public resources efficiently.

Image of Assembly member Khopolo

Khopolo, Assembly Member

“I think seeing how keen everyone was to get involved, discuss and debate on the first day and to see that same level of engagement and commitment at the last weekend was inspiring.”

Assembly's Task

The Climate Change Act sets out the Assembly’s task. It should consider how to prevent or minimise, or remedy or mitigate the effects of, climate change and it should make recommendations on measures proposed to achieve the emissions reduction targets.



Scotland’s Climate Assembly was originally required to report to the Scottish Parliament and Ministers by 28 February 2021. However, the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act of 2020 further amended the Climate Change Act to allow that if the Assembly was delayed for a reason relating to Coronavirus, it should lay its report as soon as reasonably practicable after that date.



When initiating the Assembly in November 2019, the following principles for the operation of Scotland’s Climate Assembly were agreed with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform:

• Independent of Ministers, Government and Parliament.

• Members are representative of the population.

• Transparency in the operation of the Assembly and materials provided to inform discussion, although deliberations are private.

• A Stewarding Group is used to ensure balance and legitimacy in the establishment, conduct and reporting of the Citizens’ Assembly.

• People are financially compensated for taking part.

• Discussions are professionally facilitated.

• Experts provide evidence and answer questions from the Assembly members.

When making decisions about the design and delivery of Scotland ’s Climate Assembly, the conveners and those that advise and support the Assembly are required to take account of these principles.



The Scottish Government provided Scotland’s Climate Assembly with an indicative budget of £1.4 million to deliver the Assembly.

A full report on the budget will be made available once the Assembly’s work has concluded.



Since 2004, citizens’ assemblies have been taking place around the world at the national and local level including in Canada, Ireland, France, Belgium, UK, and Poland. Until 2020, these were always in person gatherings.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was intended for Assembly meetings to be residential. The invitation letter included the dates for six weekend sessions, and offered the opportunity for members to request an additional meeting if they considered it useful.

As Covid-19 advanced, clear implications became apparent for the organisation and running of the Assembly. Options to delay the Assembly were considered, but the scale of uncertainty concerning Covid-19, balanced with the clear expectation in the legislation that the Assembly would report promptly, pointed to moving the Assembly online.

There were concerns about whether the alchemy of an in-person assembly could be recreated online and implications for how the Assembly would be designed without compromising the principles of inclusion, of being representative and transparency. However, Assembly members rose to the challenge, engaging determinedly with the issues and requesting an additional weekend to ensure they had sufficient time to refine their recommendations.

The result is a route map for a post-Covid Scotland.


Doing Politics Differently

Scotland’s Climate Assembly is the second citizens’ assembly to be run in Scotland. It is the first national citizens’ assembly to be held entirely online and the first to integrate the views of children into the Assembly process. 

Image of Assembly Member Calum

Calum, Assembly Member

“It is always positive to meet other people and discover that they have a similar outlook and share your concerns, and want to work together to make things better for everyone. It is a refreshing change from the negativity and blame culture of party politics.”

Image of Aswad, Assembly member

Aswad, Assembly Member

“I was interested in becoming a member as I knew that it was only the second kind of citizens’ assembly that has happened in Scotland so far and a great opportunity to be part of history and a voice that will shape the future of climate change.”

Image of Assembly member Suzanne

Suzanne, Assembly Member

“I am a portrait painter and live in rural Perthshire with my husband. I am very concerned that the Covid crisis has taken focus away from the climate emergency. It has been inspiring to meet so many intelligent and interesting people who really want to make a difference.”

Roles and Responsibilities

Organising Scotland’s Climate Assembly involved close collaboration between multiple groups. Each group had their own roles and responsibilities.



The secretariat was established to ensure the efficient organisation and running of the Assembly. It is staffed by a mixed team of seconded civil servants and experts in the running of citizens’ assemblies and is independent of the Scottish Government.


Design and Facilitation Team

Involve and the Democratic Society won the contract to design and facilitate the Assembly process and were jointly responsible for ensuring that Scotland ’s Climate Assembly was a high quality citizens’ assembly. Both organisations worked on the Assembly’s design, focussing on areas such as the Assembly’s structure, timings and accessibility. They were also responsible for recruiting and leading the facilitation team for the Assembly.


Stewarding Group

The Stewarding Group was established early in the development of Scotland’s Climate Assembly. Members of the Stewarding Group represent a broad range of interests in Scotland and their role was to provide advice and guidance in all aspects of the Assembly. They ensured balance and legitimacy in the establishment, conduct and reporting of the Assembly.

Extinction Rebellion Scotland were invited to join the Stewarding Group and provided valuable input in the early stages of development but chose to withdraw from the Stewarding Group in October 2020, before the Assembly meetings commenced.

There are 22 members of Scotland’s Climate Assembly’s Stewarding Group:

Claudia Beamish, Scottish Labour Party

Malcolm Cannon, Institute of Directors

Finlay Carson, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Bryce Cunningham, Mossgiel Farm

Paul de Leeuw, Robert Gordon University

John Dickie, Child Poverty Action Group

Iain Docherty, University of Stirling

Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh

Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament

Doreen Grove, Open Government Partnership, Scottish Government

Kirsten Leggatt, 2050 Climate Group

Angus MacDonald, Scottish National Party

Audrey MacDougall, Chief Social Researcher, Scottish Government

Jenny Marr, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Andrew McCornick, National Farmers Union Scotland

Scott McGrane, University of Strathclyde

Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Businesses

Laura Moodie, Scottish Green Party

Jess Pepper, Climate Reality Leader

Mike Robinson, Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Jane Suiter, Dublin City University

Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations


Evidence Group

The Evidence Group led the development of the Assembly members’ learning journey. Further information on the Evidence Group can be found later on this page.


Role of Conveners

The Climate Change Act requires the appointment of two Convener s who are independent of Ministers and Parliament, and are gender balanced. Whilst the Act did not specify the role of the Conveners, the Stewarding Group agreed that they should:

• Represent the Assembly in the media and in public.

• Amplify and support the voices of the Assembly members, acting as their champion. In practical terms this meant ensuring the evidence base was accessible and properly paced for members and assisting members to raise concerns about any aspect of the Assembly’s operation.

• Conveners do not have formal leadership or decision-making responsibilities.

Appointment Process

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, made the final decision on the Convener appointments. The Secretariat prepared a long-list of potential candidates with input from the Stewarding Group and Scottish Government sponsor team.

A short-list was drawn up on the basis of: independence; accessibility and diversity. Individuals known for their views on climate change were excluded.

The Cabinet Secretary interviewed all short-listed candidates and wrote to the Stewarding Group on 28 October 2020 to inform them of the appointment of Ruth Harvey and Josh Littlejohn.

Image of convener Josh Littlejohn

Josh Littlejohn

Josh Littlejohn is one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and campaigners having led a global movement to tackle homelessness. Josh began working on the homelessness issue when he founded the social enterprise Social Bite. Social Bite started as a small chain of sandwich shops that began offering jobs and free food to homeless people through its pay it forward model. It has since expanded into a movement including the Social Bite Village which provides shelter and support for up to 20 homeless people on vacant land in Edinburgh.

Image of Convener Ruth Harvey

Ruth Harvey

Ruth Harvey is Leader of the Iona Community, a globally dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. She is a Church of Scotland minister and a Quaker, with ten years of experience working as a mediator and facilitator with Place for Hope. Ruth brings particular experience in supporting groups to articulate their deepest concerns, and is committed to the principal that ‘nothing about us without us is for us.’

“The Assembly has shown that ordinary members of the public can take a leading role in shaping decision-making, by engaging with detailed evidence, and drawing on the experience of their own lives in setting the terms for how Scotland can respond to the climate crisis. This cannot be the end of the story of citizens actively leading our response to the climate emergency through informed deliberation together. For the good of Scotland and the wider world, it must be the beginning.” - Ruth and Josh, Conveners

Conveners’ Reflections

“When we began our journey as Conveners of Scotland’s Climate Assembly we felt some apprehension about the scale of the task and what it would involve to take on such a mammoth enterprise, and to do so entirely online as organisations across the country scrambled to adapt to Covid-19. Looking back, we can say with certainty that the Assembly has far exceeded our expectations. The quality of facilitation, the depth of engagement, the level of intimacy and the robust dialogue generated was exceptional and a privilege to be a part of.

The Assembly brought together a representative group of people, a “mini-Scotland”, and by working together they have answered their remit with clarity, rigour, imagination and urgency.

Like the members, we as Conveners keenly await the response from decision-makers, to see if the careful and considered deliberations of the Assembly will be translated into public policy that shapes Scotland’s response to the climate emergency. The impact of the Assembly’s recommendations can be limited only by the courage of our Parliament in putting heft behind them.

The Assembly was serious politics: citizens doing their civic duty. But it was far from business as usual. Our Assembly has been about robust and compassionate conversations informed by scrutinising the best evidence available.

It has been about making room for disagreements and differences of opinion, about drilling down into detail and fostering trust, intimacy and humour as we built our common ground.

Our hope is that the transformative recommendations agreed by the Assembly and set out in this report will lead to change at the national level, mirroring the personal experience of many of those involved.

The Assembly was enriched by input from the Children’s Parliament. Their generation was born into the climate emergency as a present reality - for them it will never appear a distant threat - and for them there is nothing to be gained by dithering before making the changes needed.

We heard from one member, following a particularly intense day of input, learning and conversation the previous day. She told the Assembly that literally overnight her entire household had decided to change their eating and shopping habit s as a result of what she had learned. It’s hard to make big changes at the political lev el overnight, but when it comes to the climate emergency anything else will likely prove simply inadequate.

Our members have carried with them a drive for fairness and effectiveness as they worked to meet their remit. In so doing, they have opened up a remarkable opportunity for rapid and transformative change.

We urge readers of this report to have confidence in the collective voice of the people of Scotland. They have shown that there is commitment and wisdom within the people of this nation to drive change, setting a path to climate justice that can make our country better and fairer, for the good of all.”

How were Members Selected?

The Climate Change Act requires Assembly members to be representative; “the citizens assembly is a panel made up of such persons as the Scottish Ministers consider to be representative of the general populace of Scotland”.

Decisions about how to select Assembly members were made by the independent secretariat, based on international best practice and consultation with the Stewarding Group, which included experts in deliberative processes. Member recruitment was undertaken by an independent contractor, the Sortition Foundation, following a competitive tendering process. The Sortition Foundation report is available on the Assembly website.


A citizens’ assembly needs to be large enough to ensure it is representative and small enough to allow all members to contribute effectively. Around 100 is often considered optimal. The contract to recruit members of Scotland’s Climate Assembly specified 105 members, with replacements found for any members that dropped out up until the start of the second meeting. 102 members completed the final weekend.


Different member recruitment methodologies exist. The chosen methodology was a postal civic lottery which used Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File, which allows widest access, limits bias and reduces human error, whilst also being most cost effective. 20,000 letters were sent across Scotland, with 20% randomly selected from postcodes in the most deprived areas (Multiple Deprivation Deciles 1-3) and the remainder randomly selected across Scotland.


Any person aged 16 or over living in a household when they received the invitation was able to apply, regardless of nationality. The invitation letter stated that anyone staying at the address during the registration period who normally had no fixed abode was also eligible. A maximum of one person from any single address was selected to participate.

Elected representatives, paid employees of political parties, senior civil servants whose job restricts them from participating and people who had sat on similar panels or assemblies in the previous two years were ineligible to apply.

Recipients were able to reply by telephone or online. Applicants answered a number of questions to ensure members were broadly representative of the wider Scottish population.

Selection Criteria

In order to create an assembly that was broadly representative, members were selected from the responding applicant pool based on eight different criteria: age, gender, geography, household income, ethnicity, rurality, disability and attitude towards climate change. Groups with the smallest numbers would be rounded up and those with larger representation would be rounded down.


The minimum age for participation was set at 16, but additional arrangements were made to include the voices of younger people (see section on children’s participation). In addition, it was agreed that the lowest age group should be split into smaller sections – 18-18; 19-24 and 25-29. This recognises the significant changes in a person’s life at this age and ensured representation at all stages.

Table comparing age of Scotland's population to age of Assembly members
Age Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
16 - 18 3.8 4.9
19 - 24 9.4 9.8
25 - 29 4.4 5.9
30 - 44 23.9 24.5
45 - 64 34.5 34.3
65+ 24 20.6



Although the database used lists two genders, the option was given to respondents to identify as non-binary and 2.1% of registrants identified in this way.

Comparing gender percentage of Scotland's population to Assembly members
Gender Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Male 48.7 47.1
Female 51.3 51
Non-Binary N/A 1.9
Photo of Assembly member Andrew

Andrew, Assembly Member

"I wanted to be a member because there was a lot I could bring to the table, not just with my knowledge of climate change from my academic life but as a younger person who’s growing up as this crisis evolves and as someone who grew up on the islands."


Geographical diversity is an important part of Scottish cultural identity. Different areas of Scotland will experience and respond to climate change in different ways - the challenges faced by island communities, for example, will not be the same as those experienced on the mainland. Scottish Parliamentary regions were used to stratify the sampling of Assembly members.

Comparing geographic background of population to Assembly members
Scottish Parliamentary Region Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Central Scotland 12.3 8.8
West Scotland 12.9 14.7
South Scotland 8.2 7.8
Glasgow 14.5 15.7
North East Scotland 12.3 10.8
Mid Scotland and Fife 14.1 14.7
Highlands and Islands 12.5 13.7
Lothian 13.1 13.7
Photo of Assembly member Keith

Keith, Assembly Member

"Apart from the evidence, we heard from an amazing group of experts, the most memorable aspect of the Assembly was interacting with a wide range of people of different ages and experiences from all over Scotland."


Education or employment is often used in member selection as a proxy for income. Income can be a difficult variable to measure, if people are unsure or are unwilling to reveal it. However, it was considered particularly important when selecting Assembly members as there is a known correlation between income and climate impact and vulnerability.

People were asked about their net household income for the month of January 2020 (before the Covid-19 pandemic). Care was taken to ensure a representative sample, including those with the highest incomes.

Each member received a gift of £200 per weekend. Giving a gift is increasingly considered best practice, enabling participation by the less affluent who are often under-represented in engagement. Information about the gift was displayed prominently on the recruitment material, including the envelope. Interest from those with a net household income of less than £1800 per month (the lowest 30%) was good, at 35.5% of respondents.

Comparing household income of Scotland's population and Assembly members
Household Income Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Less than £1800 (deciles 1-3) 30 33.3
Between £1800 and £3000 (deciles 4-6) 30 26.5
Between £3000 and £5200 (deciles 7-9) 30 28.4
More than £5200 (decile 10) 10 11.8

"I liked being in the discussion and seeing how other people thought. Everybody wasn’t in the same class, some people were better off than me, poorer than me, less educated than me, better educated than me, I thought it was very, very good. I enjoy arguing with people - you’ve got a point of view, I’ve got a point of view, why can’t we come to a joint point of view?"

- Hugh, Assembly Member



Comparing ethnicity of population to Assembly members
Ethnicity Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
White (registration form included a range of options including white Scottish, white other) 95.4 92.2
BAME (options on registration form were Asian, Asian Scottish, Asian British, Caribbean, Black, Black British, mixed or multiple ethnic groups, other ethnic group) 4.5 7.8
Photo of Assembly member Aswad

Aswad, Assembly Member

"I have gained a lot of experience in being part of this great group in climate change and have learned things from people with all different types of background and expertise. It has also been a great opportunity to be able to pass this knowledge over to my family and friends and to also the wider BME community which I’m a part of, to be able to spread this message about why we need to take action now and that there really is a climate emergency that simply can’t be ignored anymore and needs immediate action just as how the government is currently dealing with the pandemic crisis."


Living with a limiting long-term condition was included in selection, mirroring the approach taken by the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland. Applicants were asked, “Do you consider yourself to have a limiting long-term physical or mental condition?” People with disabilities will be impacted differently by both climate change and measures to respond to it. It was important for their perspective to be heard.

Comparing disability in population and Assembly members
"Do you consider yourself to have a limiting long-term physical or mental condition?" Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Yes (have a limiting condition) 24.6 23.5
No (do not have a limiting condition) 75.4 76.5


How individuals experience climate change, and the impact of changes that may be proposed to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, differs depending on rurality. For example, for 79% of people in accessible rural areas a car is their main mode of transport to work, compared to 49% in large urban areas and 46% in small remote towns. In addition, homes using high carbon fuels like oil, LPG and coal are much more common in remote and rural areas.

The Scottish Government’s 3-fold Urban Rural Classification system was used in selection. It distinguishes between urban, accessible rural and remote rural regions and is based on two main criteria: population, and accessibility. Rural is defined a s a population of less than 3,000 people and accessible is within 30 minutes of a settlement of 10,000 people or more, while remote rural is more than a 30 minute drive from a settlement of 10,000 or more.

Comparison of rural classification of Scotland's population and Assembly members
Urban Rural Classification Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Urban 83 79.4
Accessible Rural 11 8.8
Remote Rural 6 11.8
Photo of Assembly member Colin

Colin, Assembly Member

"It was quite nice that it was a lot of people just getting to g rips with the details and giving their perspective. Listening to other people and going, oh right, I might have got that wrong. People that lived in rural areas identifying something that is a big problem, compared to people living in cities who don’t see it... People could disagree, and I think someone summed it up in the first week, that we should disagree without being disagreeable. It re ally captured that it’s good to disagree and understand things by having that conversation with people, but to do it in a constructive way. Everyone seemed to follow the spirit of that."

Attitude to Climate Change

Where a Citizens’ Assembly addresses an issue on which people are likely to have developed views, best practice is to stratify by attitude to the issue. This is in addition to using demographic criteria. The Scottish Household Survey asks, “Which of these statements, if any, comes closest to your own view about climate change?” While the question has limitations, it currently provides the most robust and representative data available on climate attitudes in Scotland.

Data from 2019 (the most up to date available) was used for recruitment.

Comparing attitude to climate change of Scotland's population with that of Assembly members
Attitude to Climate Change Percentage of Scotland's Population Percentage of Assembly Members
Climate change is an immediate and urgent problem 69.4 66.7
Climate change is more of a problem for the future 14.3 14.7
Climate change is not really a problem 3.1 3.9
I'm still not convinced that climate change is happening 6.1 5.9
Don't know 7.1 8.8

Maintaining Diversity

These selection criteria were specifically identified to ensure that the Assembly was composed of a diverse mix of individuals so that members could learn about, understand, and connect with people who had different backgrounds and experiences.

It is to be expected that the circumstances of members might change over the course of the Assembly causing some to drop out of the process. After the first weekend, a further seven members were recruited to replace members who had dropped out, while maintaining the Assembly’s profile. New members were caught up to the same point in the learning journey ahead of weekend two. No additional replacements were made after this point.

The exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 would have been expected to increase the external pressure on members. While some members did have days of illness or bereavement when they were unable to attend, the majority of the members participated in all sessions and 101 members voted on the recommendations.

Photo of Assembly member Mark

Mark, Assembly Member

"The education side of it was phenomenal, going into the breakout groups and meeting people of all different ways and walks of life. That we could communicate at all different levels and it be a positive communication - having those different points of view was a really good thing. We’ve got people from the Highlands, their big thing is land ownership, people like myself from between Glasgow and Edinburgh staying in the main commuter belt and that doesn’t relate to us at all, so it was good listening to all the different factors from the different areas."

Photo of Assembly member Kelsey

Kelsey, Assembly Member

"I was aware of climate change but wasn’t overly informed about it so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more while taking an active role in influencing the decisions that are made for the country. This was something that I also thought would be a benefit to me in my work but also allow me to make more informed choices about the way I live. I feel I have gained a lot of knowledge about climate change and feel informed enough now to make better choices about the way I travel, eat and live. It has also done wonders for my confidence, meeting so many new people and doing things way out my comfort zone has been amazing."

Assembly Member Support

Ensuring over 100 people are able to attend and participate in a deliberative event requires more than just creating a space.

The design and facilitation team at Involve led on member support. In normal circumstances this would mean contacting members to confirm any additional support they might need to participate. For events held in person, this could include helping with childcare or other caring responsibilities, ensuring access for people with mobility challenges, and providing support for those with hearing or sight impairments.

Moving Online

Moving online allowed some issues to be solved more easily, but introduced a new challenge of supporting people to participate in online meetings. Devices were loaned to those who did not have adequate provision, together with peripheral equipment like headsets and webcams, with an option to purchase the equipment at the end of the Assembly. Mobile internet connections were provided to those who had low or limited bandwidth.

Providing the hardware was only the first step, the support team also worked to ensure that lack of computer expertise did not present a barrier. This included one to one support for tech novices, right from the basics of learning about email, to joining a Zoom call and voting online.

"The computer - that was completely alien to me! I’ve got fingers like sausages, and those tiny keys. Juliet, who provided Assembly member support, was absolutely brilliant, I promised to take her for a drink."

- Hugh, Assembly Member

For much of the Assembly, restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Scotland were extensive. People were not able to visit others’ homes. This meant that members could not access in person support - from a family member with better IT skills, or through an IT lesson or printer at a local library, and child care options were limited.

Regular domestic issues, whether the mundane such as a local power cut, or the more serious such as ill health or supporting an unwell family member and coping with bereavement were harder to resolve, and more emotionally taxing, when experienced in lockdown and in physical isolation from other Assembly members.

Supporting a Range of Perspectives

The support team, persuaded members that their views were worth sharing; that they could speak up online; that the Assembly needed a range of perspectives and experiences. Additional support was also available for any members suffering from climate anxiety.

The commitment shown by the members, despite all the challenges, was inspiring. And sometimes, truly heartwarming.

Photo of Assembly member Marion

Marion, Assembly Member

"I am a 56 year old early years worker from Glasgow. I wanted to learn what can be done to provide our next generation with a better future. I got the letter and it planted the seed. I was a wee bit wary at first, then Juliet gave me all the support: she was amazing and encouraging. And when I actually got picked I thought wow, I was really surprised."

Pre-Assembly Engagement

While participation in the Assembly as a member, expert lead, or speaker was by invitation only, a public engagement exercise was conducted in October 2020 in order to include the views of wider society. The public was invited to make suggestions about what they thought the Assembly should discuss; who should speak at the Assembly; and their ideas about how Scotland should tackle climate change using an online conversation platform, called Dialogue.

The Dialogue ran 9th-26th October. Fourteen ideas, referencing common climate change topics, were embedded from the start to elicit conversation. Users could join discussions under an existing idea or submit a new idea to start different topic of conversation. When submitting a new idea, users were asked to explain why their contribution was important.

Over 450 users registered to take part, with the Dialogue receiving 230 new ideas and over
1000 comments. Ideas and comments were coded to identify emerging themes. The themes
were mapped onto the Assembly streams - Diet, Land & Lifestyle; Homes & Communities;
and Travel & Work. Additional categories included energy, mechanisms of change and
fairness, all of which were included in the Assembly.

It is important to note that respondents were self selecting, not representative of the Scottish population and were not required to engage with evidence before submitting ideas.

Link to Evidence

The emergent themes, published in the Pre-engagement Overview in November 2020, were used to guide the organisation of evidence and selection of experts throughout the Assembly process. The overriding principle that evidence presented to the Assembly should be balanced, and accurate meant some suggestions were not included. The Pre-engagement Evidence Summary, published in March 2021, provides an overview of which ideas were incorporated.

The Pre-engagement Overview, the Pre-engagement Evidence Summary and the Dialogue platform can all be found on Scotland’s Climate Assembly website.

The Design of the Assembly

The design of Scotland’s Climate Assembly was led by a small team from Involve and the Democratic Society, two civil society organisations with significant experience of developing, designing and delivering citizens’ assemblies in the UK and beyond.

The design team worked in a constructive co-design manner with the secretariat and members of the Evidence Group, with oversight by the Stewarding Group, to develop the overall structure of the Assembly process, alongside detailed design plans for each meeting.

A number of key design principles informed this process which were intended to create
space for effective learning and deliberation between members in order to deliver fair,
effective and considered recommendations on behalf of the Assembly as a whole.

Shared Learning

A strong foundation of respected, balanced and accessible information is essential to a citizens’ assembly, but it was also important to ensure that there was time and space for members to situate this information in the context of their own knowledge and lived experience and in consideration of the views of others. Therefore, for each evidence presentation shared with members, the design aim was to allow at least equal time for reflection, questioning and evaluation in order to embed the information in a grounded way.

"It’s been a great opportunity to meet a lot of different people from all over Scotland who I normally would not have got the chance to meet and learn from. I’ve found all the people I met and worked with to be insightful and friendly." - Kirsten, Assembly Member

Learning about the subject itself is not the only learning that members need to undertake within a citizens’ assembly. Therefore time was also given to members’ learning about the Assembly process, what was expected of them as members, critical thinking and ways of evaluating evidence and establishing ways that they, as an Assembly, could work together most effectively (leading to the development of Conversation Guidelines).

Professional Facilitation

Throughout the Assembly meetings, members spent much of their time in small group discussions, and professional facilitation was important to ensure that all members’ views were able to be heard and considered and that discussions remained focused and constructive. Central to the facilitators’ role was creating and maintaining space for meaningful dialogue between members; a space that encouraged and enabled members to consider, and reconsider, their own views in light of new in formation and a greater understanding of the reasons why people might hold differing viewpoints.

Photo of Assembly member Marion

Marion, Assembly Member

"I thought the facilitators were very good at making sure everybody got their view listened to and was taken seriously, and I don’t think any member was aggressive with their point of view. There was no animosity. It was really fun!

Balance of Breadth and Depth

The scope of the challenge in tackling the climate emergency is immense, and it was clear that in a space of six or seven weekends the members would not be able to consider all aspects and topics in sufficient depth to reach informed conclusions.

For a proportion of the time the Assembly was therefore split into three workstreams. This enabled members in each stream to take a ‘deep dive’ into a topic and bring their conclusions back to their fellow members for consideration.

Photo of Assembly member Iain

Iain, Assembly Member

"Being part of the mix of people involved in the discussions was a great positive for me, listening to the ideas and perceptions of others in the workstreams and adding them to my own, then coming out the other end with added understanding and awareness of the issues and the way forward."

This required members to build a trust in each other that, just as they had given their conscientious consideration to the evidence they had heard, that their fellow members had done likewise.

"I found the dedication and abilities of many of the people involved very impressive. In every group I was in, people co-operated and were very much committed to producing a worthwhile report." - John C, Assembly Member

This was strengthened by a session where members from each stream reported back to the whole Assembly on the recommendations they had developed. All the evidence heard in each stream was made available to all members to consider and decisions were made by the Assembly as a whole. Voting was not conducted in individual streams.

Collective Ownership

The Assembly was brought together as a diverse range of voices from across Scotland and therefore it was important that the recommendations made on behalf of the Assembly came from the entire membership. To achieve this, the whole Assembly was involved in developing principles to guide them in the forming of their recommendations and determining how they would make decisions together.

Further, as described later in this report, the recommendations were developed through an iterative process which involved multiple members contributing to the formulation, drafting, advocacy and re-drafting of their content, before they were agreed. This has ensured that the goals and recommendations of the Assembly can be seen as the collective product of the membership.

"I live in Aberdeen and am currently studying for my degree in Criminology and Sociology. I struggle with chronic back and hip pain which restricts my mobility. I became a member because I didn’t know much about climate change and wanted to learn more." - Amanda, Assembly Member

Photo of Assembly member John G

John G, Assembly Member

"The most memorable aspect must be experiencing the process of taking ~100 randomly selected individuals and co-ordinating them in a way that generated the Assembly’s final goals and recommendations."

Photo of Assembly member Debz

Debz, Assembly Member

"I live in East Ayrshire, I’m 49. I have 2 kids, I was brought u p in a household with 3 siblings. I became a member of the Climate Assembly because I wanted to be part of something that could help us tackle the climate emergency, as I want to live in a world of clean air. The most memorable parts for me were discussing the possible targets to each net zero emissions. Also meeting everyone and furthering my experience with technology and its workings. I’m proud of all the recommendations as they all matter in the change we will wish to bring to Scotland."

Photo of Assembly member Douglas

Douglas, Assembly Member

"I thought the groups were positive with lots of ideas, willing to listen most of the time and would give anyone lots of things to discuss."


An essential part of the Assembly was the opportunity for members to learn about the climate emergency and hear evidence on different approaches to tackling it.

The development of the evidence for the Assembly was overseen by the Evidence Group. Members of the Evidence Group were selected as experts in their respective fields and to bring a range of different perspectives on how to tackle the climate emergency.

They worked with the secretariat and design team to establish the learning journey and
select the appropriate range of speakers to provide evidence to the Assembly. Their role was
to ensure the evidence presented was balanced, accurate and comprehensive. In addition,
the Evidence Group was available, throughout the course of the Assembly, to be directly
called upon by members to support their learning journey.

Photo of Assembly member Annette

Annette, Assembly Member

"Watching the presentations from the experts and being able to talk to them about the issues they raised was extremely informative and useful. Realising that the time we have to sort this out is a lot shorter than the politicians would have us believe!"

Assembly members heard from informant speakers who set out the background factual information as well as key stakeholders who set out a wide range of perspectives on how to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate.

Over 100 people provided evidence to the Assembly. This included video presentations, question and answer sessions and joining members in breakout room discussions. Speakers were given guidelines in the production of their videos to ensure accessibility.

A list of all those who presented evidence to the Assembly can also be found in Annex Two, and their videos are available on Scotland’s Climate Assembly’s YouTube channel.

Supervised by a group of nine evidence leads, Assembly members heard from over 100 expert speakers, learned and deliberated for more than 60 hours, and had 1000s of their questions answered.

Evidence Group

Photo of Professor Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

Iain Stewart is Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, Director of its Sustainable Earth Institute and President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Iain acted as the communications lead within the Evidence Group supporting Assembly members throughout the process to understand and interrogate the evidence provided.

Photo of Professor Kevin Anderson

Professor Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, Universities of Manchester (UK), Uppsala (Sweden) and Bergen (Norway). In addition to his role as Evidence Lead, Kevin presented evidence to the Assembly on carbon budgets and the ambition of action needed to tackle the climate emergency.

Photo of Dr Anna Birney

Dr Anna Birney

Dr Anna Birney is Director at the School of System Change at Forum for the Future. Anna brought her experience of working to build an international learning community of changemakers using systemic practices to address the complex challenges of our times to the Assembly. Anna helped Assembly members to consider how to make change happen.

Photo of Dr Kate Crowley

Dr Kate Crowley

Dr Kate Crowley is a Lecturer in Climate Risk and Resilience at the University of Edinburgh and Co-Director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute. In addition to her role as Evidence Lead, Kate also presented evidence on the impacts of climate change and adaptation to climate change.

Photo of Professor Tahseen Jafry

Professor Tahseen Jafry

Professor Tahseen Jafry is the Director of the pioneering Centre for Climate Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University. Tahseen brought her knowledge of the justice and equity aspects of climate change to the Evidence Group and helped Assembly members to consider how to tackle climate change in a fair way.

Photo of Daisy Narayanan

Daisy Narayanan

Daisy Narayanan is the Senior Manager - Placemaking and Mobility at the City of Edinburgh Council where she leads on delivering a city-wide integrated approach to transport and placemaking. She was previously the Director of Urbanism for Sustrans. In addition to her role as Evidence Lead, Daisy supported Assembly members to consider how emissions could be reduced in Scotland’s homes and communities.

Photo of Professor Dave Reay

Professor Dave Reay

Professor Dave Reay is Chair in Carbon Management & Education at the University of Edinburgh. Dave is also Executive Director of ECCI and Policy Director of ClimateXChange. In addition to his role as Evidence Lead, Dave also presented evidence to introduce the Assembly to climate change mitigation.

Photo of Professor Pete Smith

Professor Pete Smith

Pete Smith is Professor of Soils and Global Change at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. He has been an author on many reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and led its work on climate change mitigation in agriculture, forestry and land for its 4th and 5th Assessment Reports, and the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land. In addition to his role has Evidence Lead, Pete also presented evidence on diet and land use.

Photo of John Ward

John Ward

John is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, based at the London School of Economics. He is an experienced economist who spent the last 10 years working on the economics of climate change and sustainability. Until 2018, John was Managing Director at the economics consultancy, Vivid Economics, before founding his own consultancy, Pengwern Associates. In addition to John’s role as Evidence Lead, he also presented evidence on levers for change.

Learning Journey

Assembly members heard as a collective an introduction to climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

They then considered why we set targets, where Scotland's emissions come from, and how we can make fair and effective change happen.

Assembly members then split into three streams as follows.

Diet, Land Use & Lifestyle Homes & Communities Travel & Work
How should Scotland rebalance its diet? How should Scotland exchange its existing homes? How should Scotland change how it travels by land?
How should Scotland change how it uses its land? How should Scotland change its new homes? How should Scotland change how it travels by air?
How should Scotland change how it buys things? How should Scotland change how it plans its communities? How should Scotland change its working practices?
How should Scotland change how it uses materials and resources? How should Scotland change how it delivers community services? How should Scotland support people to change work?

Assembly members then came back together for cross stream learning - financing climate action, current Scottish Government policy, and deliberations.

Finally, they came up with the Assembly recommendations.


The learning journey developed by the Evidence Group and the secretariat first introduced the climate emergency at the global scale before focusing on how to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions in Scotland.

In Weekend One, Professor Iain Stewart provided an introduction to climate science and a presentation on how and why we set climate change targets. Members heard from Dr Kate Crowley about what impacts climate change is having globally and how we can live with this change. Professor Dave Reay provided an introduction to climate change mitigation and members started to explore how fair and effective change can happen with presentations from Dr Anna Birney and Professor Tahseen Jafry.

In Weekend Two, the Assembly focused on the climate emergency in Scotland. They heard from Dr Andy Kerr who explained where Scotland’s emissions come from, and Dr Dan Barlow who discussed where action can be taken to tackle climate change. Members then heard introductory talks to the three streams they would consider in Weekends Three and Four - Diet, Land use and Lifestyle; Homes and Communities; and Travel and Work. On Sunday, Anna Beswick and David Harkin explored how Scotland can adapt to climate change; John Ward helped members to explore what levers can be used for climate policy and how action can be financed; and Professor Kevin Anderson asked members to think about what the Paris Agreement means for Scotland. The day finished with members considering fairness and justice in climate action.

Photo of Assembly Member Shona

Shona, Assembly Member

"The presentation by Kevin Anderson - ‘What does the Paris agreement mean for Scotland?’ and Chris Stark’s presentation - ‘Costs and Ambitions on the path to net zero’ were memorable for me, mostly as they highlighted that individuals have an important role to play in reducing carbon emissions."

During Weekends Three and Four, the members were split into three streams, with each stream considering two climate action themes as shown in the diagram. Members heard from informant speakers who set out factual background information and advocates who argued for specific policy actions.

In Weekend Five, Chris Stark from the Climate Change Committee provided evidence on the affordability of climate action and Scotland’s ambitions to reach net zero by 2045. They also heard evidence on the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan update from Fabrice Leveque from the Climate Emergency Response Group.

Weekends Six and Seven were devoted to deliberation and voting.

System Change

Right at the start of the process, the Democratic Society facilitated an online deliberative workshop for the Stewarding Group to consider how best to frame the Assembly’s question and learning journey. The Stewarding Group agreed that systemic factors, including the wider political and economic environment, should be considered alongside individual and collective responsibility.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a tool increasingly used by senior policy makers and business leaders as well as academics interested in addressing society’s challenges. It offers the opportunity to assess many elements and analyse how the way they interrelate can give rise to an outcome or set of outcomes. By first understanding the systems at play, Assembly members could then start to reflect on what changes, if any, they would like to see.

The Assembly used storytelling as a tool to consider how change has happened. Historic examples, such as the rock ‘n’ roll movement, were used to illustrate that multiple interconnected factors can come together to affect change over time.

Assembly members applied this mind set throughout the process by thinking about the
levers for, and barriers to, achieving change in the context of the climate crisis. Members
mapped out their ideas on the ‘rainbow chart’, illustrated below, as a means to identify
different levels of action.

Rainbow chart of systems perspective.

The outmost layer contains society, norms, values and beliefs.

The next layer contains public policy, regulation, taxes and incentives.

The third layer contains organisations, businesses and public services.

The next layer contains households, communities and neighbourhoods.

The innermost layer is made up of the individual.

Members heard a series of presentations detailing the roles of key actors - such as Scottish Government, Local Authorities, businesses and civil society - a s well as the tools available to them to facilitate change, including policy and finance.

Storytelling and Futures

The Assembly also used stories to imagine what a sustainable future could look like. This discipline of foresight is frequently used by academics and policy makers to encourage long-term thinking and explore how different policy areas interact, to inform decision making in the present.

Scenarios were developed by the Evidence Group based loosely on previous work with EU Innovate, each governed by a distinct set of assumptions. Individually they place a different emphasis along two axes of uncertainty about decision-making and how change happens: the importance of profit and how centralised is decision making, as illustrated by the diagram.

X - Y diagram comparing scenarios of a sustainable future

The diagram outlines four overarching scenarios. The X-axis signifies the importance of profit ranging from low to high. The Y-axis outlines the nature of decision making from decentralised to centralised. In the cross-section of low importance of profit and highly centralised decision making Assembly members identified the scenario of 'Climate Mobilisation', which is described as follows: 'looking at state emergency powers that could be used to maintain habitable climates and access to resources'.

For the cross-section of low importance of profit and decentralised decision making, Assembly members identified the scenario of 'Collaborative Communities', which is described as follows: 'Using public participation and commons management principles to build community trust and respond to climate change'.

For the cross-section of high importance of profit and highly centralised decision making, Assembly members identified the scenario of 'Civic Provision & Regulation', which is described as follows: 'tackling climate change through state economic regulation and state delivery of public services'.

For the cross-section of low importance of profit and decentralised decision making, Assembly members identified the scenario of 'Techno Optimism', which is described as follows: 'Using innovation and research to advance technological responses to climate change mitigation and adaptation'.

The evidence group then developed a fictional story for each of these scenarios, exploring what a day in the life of an ordinary Scottish citizen might look like at some point in the future between now and 2040, making the impact of abstract policy decisions visceral to Assembly members’ everyday lives. Each story drew on policies and ideas that already exist in different parts of the world and in history, and imagined how these ideas might play out several decades into the future.

The scenarios were not presented as options, and Assembly members were not asked which scenario they preferred. Instead, the scenarios enabled Assembly members to explore the trade-offs made if society were to emphasise different sets of values, and the implications this could have for fair and effective change. Members were given time to reflect on which aspects of each story resonated with them and which aspects they opposed, how the different worlds in each story compared.

Speaker Selection

The four scenarios also served as a mechanism to guide speaker selection. For each sub-question (see Learning Journey, page 126), an informant explained the current context and four advocates, each roughly representing one of the four scenarios, proposed possible actions. It is important to note that speakers and their subsequent suggestions do not fall neatly into each paradigm. This exercise did not constrain speakers but instead aimed to ensure that the Assembly heard a range of balanced views. In some instances, three speakers provided sufficient breadth.

Incorporating a systems change perspective was intended to help members formulate their own narrative of what effective change looks like. During the final weekend, the recommendations and goals that were included on the ballot were presented back to members in a final story to visualise the interconnectivity of their ideas and the possible future they could create.

Photo of Assembly member Mhairi

Mhairi, Assembly Member

"I really enjoyed listening to the various speakers over the weekends who helped us to make informed decisions."

Photo of Assembly member Colin

Colin, Assembly Member

"I thought when I signed up it was going to be very climate-related and focused on climate change itself, and what I liked was that instead of being about the details of what’s happening to the climate itself, it became something about the future of Scotland and climate change being a big part of that. So instead of just addressing that problem, it was how does that problem fit into our lives."

Photo of Assembly member Maggie

Maggie, Assembly Member

"Life-long learning means you’re never too old to learn."

"I remember the Professor from Aberdeen University, Pete Smith: I remember being quite shocked by the numbers he gave on how much our diet contributes to climate change, although I knew it played a part. The expert s were all very helpful, and all were able to answer our questions to our satisfaction. I also felt they were obviously keen that we gained understanding, they all had nice attitudes. It wasn’t a case of ‘I’m the expert and am here to make you think the right things,’ they were very congenial and very helpful." - Carol, Assembly Member

The Deliberative Process

Alongside the learning journey for members, an essential part of the Assembly process is the deliberative phase. One of the key differences between a citizens’ assembly and other forms of public engagement is that participants are expected to come to a collective decision, or set of decisions, at the end. To enable this, at each stage of the Assembly process members deliberated together to consider and evaluate ideas and options for change, find points of common ground and where trade-offs would need to be made, and identify collective goals and priorities for recommendations.

Developing Recommendations

The process of developing the Assembly’s recommendations took place in a number of stages throughout the Assembly weekends before they were subsequently voted on by the whole Assembly.

Following introductory sessions on climate science and the context in Scotland, at the end of the second weekend all Assembly members were given an overview of the three broad workstreams that the Assembly would focus on. In small groups they worked to identify the key challenges and opportunities for change in each workstream, as a way of tasking those members selected to focus on each topic with the members’ priorities overall.

In Weekends Three and Four, members met in three different workstreams to look in depth at each topic. In each workstream they heard further evidence that set out the scope of the topic, and the degree of change needed to tackle the climate emergency, along with a variety of presentations advocating different approaches to achieving change. Using this as a starting point the discussion groups (which rotated every day ) used a common recording template to begin identifying the framework for potential recommendations, and what they hoped these would achieve.

Between meetings the ideas included in these templates were consolidated across the discussion groups and common themes and ambitions were drawn out as proposed draft recommendations. The Evidence Group also undertook a technical review of the initial proposals to make suggestions to the members about ways they could tighten or strengthen the emerging recommendation to help ensure it could have the intended impact. This was presented back to members in a written form.

In Weekends Four and Five, groups had the opportunity to suggest re-wording and
refinements to the proposed recommendations through an iterative process of discussion,
consolidation and review. They also had the chance to identify any further information they
felt they needed in order to make sure their recommendations would help Scotland change
to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way.

Photo of Assembly member David P

David P, Assembly Member

"I was privileged to learn more about current climate change issues at the same time as other members. There were many excellent presentations given that emphasised the problems that we face. Considering Scotland’s problems was our specific objective, yet any answers proposed are universal."

Between Weekend Five and Six, members reviewed the draft proposed goals and recommendations from their workstream to determine which they would present back to the whole Assembly.

In Weekend Six each discussion group was allocated four to five draft recommendations to refine and evaluate against the fairness propositions they had agreed and the principles established for developing effective recommendations. When the three workstreams came back together during this weekend the members presented their proposed recommendations, alongside why they believed they were important and how they thought these changes could help Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency.

Photo of Assembly member Imaobong

Imaobong, Assembly Member

"It was interesting to listen and learn from the evidence group experts as we brainstormed through the breakout room discussions and deliberations. How the ambition statements, goals and recommendations were finally coined was remarkable."

At this stage members spent time together discussing the recommendations from across all workstreams, identifying points of tension and commonality, and proposing mergers and redrafts to address these. During Weekend Six they also began drafting their collective Statement of Ambition by identifying overarching messages they wanted to address to the Parliament and the people of Scotland about the need for change to tackle the climate emergency.

Between Weekends Six and Seven, members voted to endorse a set of high-level goals that would frame their more detailed recommendations for action. During this time the Evidence Group also undertook a final technical review of the draft recommendations, acting as a critical friend to members by offering suggestions that could help make their drafts clearer.

At Weekend Seven, members undertook a process of discussion and consensus building to review and endorse their collective Statement of Ambition. They also worked in small groups to finalise the wording of their recommendations and draft supporting statements. This was an iterative process throughout the weekend, with members exchanging draft text between groups for comment, before agreeing their preferred wording.

"I liked the percentages of what was going to go to the final papers. There was only one or two in the 60s, most of them were in the 80s and 90s. For any of the suggestions to get 100%, I thought that was fabulous. That shows you the work that people put in to get to that, that people could agree with the recommendations. Imagine picking 100 odd people and getting 90 to agree to a proposal. That’s brilliant. That was through discussion. People didn’t start with the same suggestions, they had to negotiate to get it on the board." - Hugh, Assembly Member

Following the close of the final Assembly meeting each member was invited to indicate their support for each recommendation through a vote. While finding common ground is an important function of an assembly, it is equally as important that the process does not manufacture a false consensus; therefore, once recommendations had been drafted and reviewed collectively voting was used to record the views of all members individually, ensuring that minority voices had the space to be heard, as well as the majority.

Voting Process

Scotland’s Climate Assembly combined a mix of consensus building in small groups to develop proposals, informal voting, and formal voting aided by digital tools.

Full Assembly votes were completed via SurveyMonkey. Members were sent the details for participation via email, with the option for phone support from a member of the support team. Key votes took place asynchronously to ensure members had adequate time to consider different options. Mentimeter was used once in Weekend Two for an indicative vote on members’ priority areas of focus after considering initial evidence.

Member Led

Members discussed the formal Assembly decision making process and voted on their preferred approach during Weekend Five. This included the framing and the voting procedure. They were presented with a series of viable options, which had been suggested by the design team and reviewed by the Stewarding Group prior to the meeting. They were also asked at this stage to vote on the option for a seventh weekend (86% of members voted in favour). The collective preference informed the design of remaining weekends.

Goals and Recommendations

Between Weekends Five and Six, members voted in their work streams on merger proposals and to indicate which Goals and Recommendations they considered a priority at this stage.

Between Weekends Six and Seven, members voted as a whole Assembly on 16 proposed Goals. They voted on whether they agreed or disagreed that each Goal should be supported by the Assembly. There was also the option to abstain. 99 members participated.

Review and Final Vote

During Weekend Seven, members had the option to review any gaps in the recommendations and to propose additions. Members discussed the proposed additions in small groups and indicated to their facilitator whether they agreed or disagreed that one should be considered by the full Assembly in the final vote. There was also the option to abstain. Facilitators logged the votes live.

After Weekend Seven, members voted as a whole Assembly on 81 proposed Recommendations. They voted on whether they agreed or disagreed that each Recommendation should be supported by the Assembly. There was also the option to abstain. 101 members participated. 79 recommendations were strongly supported (by over 75% of members) and two further recommendations achieved majority support (by over 50% of members).

All votes were quorate, meaning that the minimum number of members required to vote for it to be valid overall was achieved (two-thirds of the membership).

In the end, all Goals and Recommendations were supported by Scotland’s Climate Assembly.

Photo of Assembly member David H

David H, Assembly Member

"Most people were attempting to achieve the same thing. Of course, I was never going to completely agree with some people who felt any cost was worth paying, or who were focussed on fairness over reducing CO2. However, you are going to naturally find some common ground because almost anything that I supported was usually supported by the majority of people.

While with respect to the other proposals, sometimes it meant understanding what people were trying to achieve and changing their wording to restrict the severity of that policy’s impact, at other times it meant arguing against a recommendation entirely or suggesting a similar alternative.

Finally, there was a vote. Not all recommendations were supported by everyone and so sometimes you agree to disagree and put it to the vote."

Children's Parliament

Integrating children’s voices into the Assembly process has been a unique and significant realisation of children’s right to participate in decision-making processes in Scotland. Although the minimum age of members of the Assembly was set at 16, an alternative way to enable younger voices to be heard was considered essential. Children’s Parliament were therefore invited to support the participation and engagement of younger children across Scotland, to ensure their views, experiences and ideas informed the discussions and recommendations going forward.

While children, like adults, do not necessarily share the same views, opinions and ideas, children have played a central role in calling for urgency in tackling climate change recognising the impact of climate change on their own immediate and future lives, and the lives of the generations to come. Most of all, children want to be part of the solutions and changes needed, and want to work with adults to tackle the climate emergency together.

How were the Children Selected?

To capture the diversity of children’s views and experiences, and to echo the process of the Climate Assembly, Children’s Parliament worked with just over 100 children aged 7-14 across Scotland from 10 local authorities, representing urban and rural communities, a mix of income and ethnicity groups, and with a gender balance. Many children had not previously engaged with climate change, until their involvement in the Assembly. They have therefore been on a significant learning journey from October 2020 to March 2021, to understand climate change, its impact, and what Scotland needs to do to further mitigate and adapt in a fair, just way.


In October 2020, January 2021 and February 2021, 113 members of Children’s Parliament completed interactive, digital surveys which included a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions, and the option to submit artwork. Each survey was accompanied by creative, participatory workshops designed by Children’s Parliament and delivered by supporting school staff or accessed remotely from home during lockdown. Children’s Parliament worked with the Assembly secretariat to identify experts to ensure the children received age-appropriate information and evidence that aligned with the themes explored by the Assembly members.

Climate Investigators

Children’s Parliament also worked with 12 children from four of the participating schools. The role of these ‘Investigators’ was to explore the themes being deliberated on by Assembly members, and analyse the views, ideas and opinions of the wider group of children involved in the project.

The Investigators were sent activity boxes on a monthly basis to prepare for regular workshop sessions held over Zoom. They also created a series of four short films that were shown to the Assembly during the meetings. The films explored the children’s initial reflections on participating in the Assembly, their personal experiences and the impact of climate change in Scotland, their views on the different streams of information that the Assembly members were presented with, and the final ‘calls to action’ to be considered by the Assembly.


The children’s calls to action are integrated into this report, and can be found alongside
the Assembly recommendations. In March 2021, between Weekends Six and Seven of the
Assembly, members were given the opportunity to meet with some of the children involved in
the investigation to share experiences and discuss their priorities.

The children’s final report is included as Annex One to this report. All materials produced for and by the children are available on our website and YouTube channel.

"[Scotland’s Climate Assembly was] a look into the future, especially from the Children’s Parliament. If those are the decision makers of the future I feel full of confidence." - Claire, Assembly Member

Photo of Assembly member Ellie

Ellie, Assembly Member

"It was great to hear from Children’s Parliament, the clarity of their suggestions informed the way we framed some of the recommendations which we included in our report. It was also heart-wrenching at times hearing them voice their concerns about the current situation and the urgency of the global situation."

Media and Social Media

Scotland’s Climate Assembly is underpinned by transparency so it is important its work and recommendations are widely known and understood across Scotland. The Assembly has included a lively, accessible and engaging social media presence, sharing its progress through evidence and deliberation and the reflections and experiences of members. A large number of videos, covering our evidence and findings are publicly available on social media and our website.

Reporting on the Assembly’s work has appeared across major traditional broadcast and print media at both the national and local level, as well as a range of emerging digital outlets. Assembly members, conveners and evidence group members have played an important role in telling the story of the Assembly through media interviews and opinion articles, including the Statement of Ambition, written collectively by our membership, which was published in The Scotsman ahead of the publication of our Interim Report.

Social Media

Social media was an important tool for spreading awareness and understanding of Scotland’s Climate Assembly. Using multiple channels (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn) helped communicate the Assembly’s work with a wide range of people from different backgrounds. Shared content alternated between updates on the process and educational information, using videos, images, infographics and news articles.

Pre-Assembly, social media posts focused on raising awareness around climate change and explaining how citizens’ assemblies work. Over the five month period the Assembly’s social media content transitioned to documenting proceedings and communicating key milestones.

In line with the principle of transparency, experts’ pre-recorded presentations were shared in real time on social media over the Assembly weekends and recordings from the plenary sessions were published the following week. Broadcasting the meetings in this way permitted public scrutiny of the evidence. Assembly members’ deliberations were kept private, enabling unconstrained discussion, as is standard practice.

The power of citizens’ assemblies is their ability to use human connection to create a shared vision. To bring that human element to the forefront, Scotland’s Climate Assembly shared interview clips with Evidence Leads, Conveners and Assembly members on it’s social media pages. Sharing Assembly members’ stories was especially powerful as they conveyed the diversity of experiences members brought to their discussions. Participants also featured in a number of other promotional videos, putting them centre-stage in the Assembly’s outreach materials.

Getting Involved

Social media was also integral in facilitating wider public involvement and galvanising stakeholder support. In the lead up to the Assembly, this involved encouraging the general public to submit their suggested Assembly topics onto the pre-engagement platform, Dialogue. Over the course of the meetings, stakeholders were directed via social media and newsletters to join the observers’ sessions. Post-Assembly, digital channels have been key in publicising report releases and promoting upcoming launch events. These calls to action have brought more people closer to the process, creating a network of people who wish to help the Assembly succeed.



The observer programme was designed to give an insight into the operation of Scotland’s Climate Assembly for non-members. It was guided by twin objectives: transparency and visibility. Transparency meant enabling scrutiny of the evidence and process; and visibility was designed to raise the Assembly profile by creating a network of interest.


For transparency, it was important to reach as broad a range of stakeholders as possible. Four key groups were targeted: government, including national and local government, elected representatives and civil servants; trade organisations and bodies representing different sectors of the economy; civil society and members of the public.

Over 380 people registered over the course of the 7 weekends. Once registered, observers received all the weekend’s materials. They could also choose to join a live session with those involved with the Assembly as facilitators and speakers. There were 551 registrations (some for multiple sessions). 258 attended the live sessions (195 individuals, of which 33 attended multiple sessions).

Diagram showing circular mapping of stakeholders

The diagram's outermost layer contains culture, creative & tourism; community and inclusion; climate; business and enterprise; and deliberative democracy.

The next layer contains energy and fuel; finance and development; food and land; government and governance; and health and wellbeing.

The third layer contains infrastructure, industry and manufacturing; work, education and training; travel and transport; and science and technology.

The next layer contains civil society, government and business.

The innermost layer contains impact.

Observers Experience

All evidence materials were provided to the observers on YouTube at the same time as they were presented to members. Video of the online plenary sessions was made available after a short delay to format and upload the recordings.

The observer programme for Weekends One to Five focused on the evidence presented at that meeting to Assembly members. The programme for Weekends Six and Seven diverged from this pattern as the members were engaged in deliberation rather than hearing further evidence. The Weekend Six observer session therefore focused on deliberative practice and taking the Assembly online. Weekend Seven summarised the whole process, and two Assembly members reflected on their experience.

"I very much hope that the experience of this citizens’ climate assembly will validate the use of citizens’ assemblies as a process for addressing issues, making recommendations for finding solutions that add to the wellbeing of people and planet." - Francine, Observer

"I hope that the Assembly helps to positively inform policy making on climate action in Scotland - and that it helps to educate, inform and involve more people about the need to take climate action, and how they can do that." - Kate, Observer

"I hope for the Scottish Climate Assembly to be perceived as a valuable instrument by citizens and decision makers alike and that it will be the starting point of many more citizens’ assemblies in the future." - Lukas, Observer


Independent research is being conducted by Scottish Government social researchers with Newcastle University. This collaborative approach ensures impartiality and integrity. The research team is supported by a Research Advisory Group of academics and practitioners with expertise in climate change research and deliberative and participatory democracy.

The research has four objectives:

  • to support learning and continuous improvement in the delivery of the Assembly whilst in process
  • to evaluate the success of the Assembly as a deliberative process
  • to assess the impact of the Assembly on the climate change debate and policy in Scotland
  • to contribute to cumulative learning on use of deliberative approaches for engaging citizens in government policy development, particularly on climate change

At each Assembly weekend, researchers surveyed members and observed group discussions. The resulting data briefings were used by the Assembly organisers to inform the design and delivery of subsequent weekends. After weekend seven two thirds of members completed a survey giving the following results:

The Assembly was diverse enough to ensure a broad range of perspectives was considered

Diagram showing significant agreement with question

Taking a mixed methods approach, the research draws upon and integrates various sources of information. Researchers have conducted surveys and interviews with Assembly members and other stakeholders, and are analysing discussion groups, evidence presentations, the Assembly report and media coverage. A population survey will be conducted to gather public views of the Assembly and its recommendations.

I feel that my contributions have been listened to by the other Assembly members

Diagram showing significant agreement with the question

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of Scotland’s Climate Assembly, the research will help us learn lessons about how best to involve people in Scotland in discussions about climate change and other important issues. In doing so, it will make a valuable contribution to the growing body of global evidence on democratic innovation.

An interim research report is due to be published by November 2021, with a full report early in 2022. An anonymised research dataset will be made accessible later in 2022 as a resource for further research.

Citizens' Assemblies are a good way of involving people in making recommendations on important issues

Diagram showing significant agreement with the question

Next Steps

Assembly members have set out their Statement of Ambition and Recommendations. The next step is for Scottish Ministers to publish a statement setting out how they intend to respond to the recommendations made in this report. The Climate Change Act requires Ministers to respond within six months of receiving this report. This firm grounding in legislation is a particular strength of Scotland’s Climate Assembly, providing a direct route for Assembly members’ recommendations to policymaking.

Over the summer there will be opportunities for Assembly members to meet with people and organisations working in those areas covered by the Assembly’s recommendations and to discuss their proposals with stakeholders.

Scotland’s Climate Assembly members have committed to meet again after Ministers publish their response.

Photo of Assembly member Iain

Iain, Assembly Member

"Clearer awareness that climate change is the biggest challenge of our times, and governments must address the causes and reach out for solutions to achieve the profound revolution required in the way we live our lives, to avert a catastrophe that will affect not only us, now, but the future of our children’s children’s children."

Photo of Assembly member Mark

Mark, Assembly Member

"It was a great thing for a member of the public like myself to have a say in the political side of it as well, it’s ok us going and saying it to them but it’s whether they listen..."

Photo of Assembly member Ellie

Ellie, Assembly Member

"Throughout the process of learning from evidence presented by the experts, there was a growing sense of awareness of the responsibility that we had as Assembly members as a collective voice for Scotland which gave us a will to make sure we did the best we could."

Photo of Assembly member Khopolo

Khopolo, Assembly Member

"I hope what we’ve come up with will get implemented and that the politicians will listen to us as ordinary members of society who have spent so much time trying to craft something that is relatively straightforward and simple to understand."

Photo of Assembly member Julie

Julie, Assembly Member

"Following the Climate Assembly, I am more confident that we, citizens, can push the government, businesses, individuals to take the necessary decisions and make the fundamental changes to tackle the big climate issue. I switched from feeling guilty of damaging the planet to feeling empowered that things can be done and fast."