Tele column – 14th April 2017

On Monday evening I attended a lecture by Brett Hennig on a Citizen’s Assembly. The idea is that a second chamber would be randomly selected from the population and employed for two years to produce legislation. It is not as radical as it sounds and similar ideas are in practice in Australia and the Netherlands. And it is not such a new idea as it was widely used in ancient Greece. Personally I can’t see it at a national level as it creates one of the fundamental problems it is trying to solve. The audience on Monday universally hated politicians, especially middle aged men. I have had more comfortable evenings.  

One problem with any national chamber is that the members, who would be pulled from all over Scotland, would need to travel to and live in Glasgow for at least three days a week, just as happens at Holyrood and Westminster. That makes it less appealing to people with a young family and single parents. Therefore, the demography of the people that is required to create a representative cross section of society is immediately reduced and you end up with people who are better placed to travel and live away from home, namely middle aged men. If the concept of a citizen’s assembly was applied at a more local level it becomes more practical. Twenty people that represent a cross section of Inverclyde employed for two years to address the issues that affect Inverclyde in a non-political non-partisan way. They would then report to the local council with guidance from experts. Whether it is national or local there are a range of ideas that need sorted but it’s a hugely interesting concept around giving citizens a voice in the sort of country they want to live in.