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Scotland’s Echo Chamber: Why talking in circles does no one any favours

Last month, the Scottish Government released a document that outlined the remit of the existence of a new Citizens’ Assembly, which is to sit from October 2019 to April 2020, and people are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

At first glance, a Citizens’ Assembly seems reasonable, even beneficial. Creating official public engagement to look at constitutional issues, hear expert testimony and make reasoned decisions, away from the interference of politicians can surely only be a good thing, right? Wrong. Wade in just a little, and you can see instantaneously that the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly is to suit one agenda only, the Nationalist agenda.

In many countries, Citizens’ Assemblies have been used to debate and decide upon significant constitutional changes. Most recently in the Republic of Ireland on the question of legalising abortion, where after months of analysis and scrutiny the assembly recommended that the country should have a referendum on the matter. So why not do that here in Scotland? The answer is simple; we have already had a referendum.

The remit released for the assembly is as follows:

  • What kind of country we are seeking to build;

  • How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit; and

  • What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country.

In other words, independence, independence; and how can we convince people to vote for independence? You see, with the SNP, independence is always the answer and the question asked is completely irrelevant.

The Scottish Government has committed itself to act upon any recommendations made by the assembly within 90 days, drawing up an action plan and policy to match. The SNP Government would never adopt a policy that was against a second independence referendum of that much we can be certain. Therefore, the commitment to implement the recommendations only cements the idea that the outcome of the assembly is set in stone from the outset.

Last time I checked, we already had a Citizens’ Assembly, and it is called Holyrood. MSPs are ordinary citizens from all walks of life, elected into a chamber to represent our views and to consider the reports of experts and legislate accordingly. Call me old fashioned, but I think we have this covered.

Furthermore, the makeup of members of the Citizens’ Assembly is to be representative of Scotland as a whole. The simple fact of the matter is, that the majority of people in Scotland vote for unionist parties. Therefore, it should be reasonable to assume the majority of members of the assembly would be unionists. Perhaps I am a cynic, but somehow, I doubt it.

Taking advantage of the current climate in Westminster, Joanna Cherry MP championed the idea of the assembly. She purported that it would allow people to have a say in Scotland’s future policy given recent events. However, it was only a matter of weeks before the mask slipped and she released a video stating that she believed that a Citizen’s Assembly was “the perfect way to move us towards Independence.” At that moment, anyone who still believed that this would be a space for an open and inclusive debate in Scottish Politics had the scales removed from their eyes.

Senior advisors involved in organising the Assembly explained that she had made it “ten times harder” to recruit a wide selection of members now that the primary objective of independence had officially been revealed. The comments have only served to deepen public mistrust. In just a few sentences, the SNP gained the echo chamber they always wanted.

For the SNP, independence will always be the primary objective. No matter if it is presented as the answer to Brexit or Westminster ‘Austerity’ or the fact that it rained too much last week, the Scottish people still do not want it and the SNP are still not listening.

Scotland is on the never-ending merry-go-round of independence that it simply cannot get off, and continued discussion on the matter benefits no one. In the meantime, the SNP have mismanaged our NHS, our education system and our economy and failed to move us forward to a positive, prosperous future. Mainly because merry-go-rounds only go in circles.


Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members.