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-p arty 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.