Chapter Four: The Assembly vision
"We accepted that there will always be difference, but we have a common goal and we can draw on all the strands of our collective experience to add value to that. It was like a common woven thread through the whole weekend that bound all our hopes and ideals and disagreements because they were all relevant they were all enough, but they couldn’t all be included."
The Assembly was established to give citizens a platform to say what matters to the people of Scotland, to identify what unites us, and to find common ground in what are often highly contested political discussions. Never before has such a broadly representative group been drawn together to work in such a way on behalf of all citizens of Scotland.
Earlier in this report are set out the 10 statements of vision agreed by the Assembly in response to the remit topic ‘what kind of country are we seeking to build’. The vision is a hugely important output of the Assembly, telling the story of the values, outcomes and ideas on how decision are taken for and about the country that are most important. These statements are entirely the words of Assembly members.
The vision was agreed by consensus by the Assembly, it includes only those statements that were supported in a vote by 90% or more of members. It genuinely captures the common ground in the Assembly. Of course the ten statements are not the whole story of the vision of Assembly members. Many ideas were discussed throughout the process. This chapter describes the journey which resulted in the vision, including the ideas members shared at the beginning of the process, the breadth and diversity of views along the way and how the vision evolved over the course of the Assembly.
How the Assembly vision was developed
One of the first activities members did together was to share their experiences of living in Scotland and to describe what they think is special about living here and the kind of country they would like to build. These discussions produced the word cloud below.
What kind of country are we seeking to build?
The word cloud provided valuable insights into the range of views across the Assembly and it shaped decisions about the challenges that were investigated in more detail in weekends 3 and 4. The areas that came through most prominently at this stage included sustainability and use of resources, building strong communities, investing in public services, tackling poverty and inequalities, and values relating to both the kind of people we are and how decisions are taken.
Preparing an initial vision – what kind of country are we seeking to build?
Weekend 2 concentrated on more detailed work to develop vision statements. The report and supporting materials for the weekend describe the processes followed. Members began by crafting statements in their own words. These were condensed to 107 statements through grouping at tables and then reviewed and refined further to prepare a final set of 67 statements. These 67 statements, which are included in Annex 9, represented the ‘breadth and diversity of views’ across the Assembly. Finally, members selected their top three priorities and the outcome of this vote was that 22 statements (identified as top priorities by at least 3 groups) were identified as the ‘common ground between members’.
The 22 statements agreed at this stage were:
The Scotland we are seeking to build will…
- be socially responsible, taking care of the most vulnerable in society
- be a sustainable society where we balance our environmental, economic and social impact for the good of the country and its citizens
- provide housing for everyone
- have a strong and stable public service for all
- invest in and provide a thriving and fit-for-purpose
- health service
- be a prosperous and financially secure country
- be a safe country
- provide a free, world-class education for all
- have a greater and stronger state pension
- be free of poverty
- be accountable, transparent and professional by providing informed information to the people
- encourage and support all citizens to reach their full potential throughout their lives.
- have an honest and accountable government
- be democratic, fair, honest, transparent and inclusive
- have better incomes and a better living wage to reduce poverty
- have equal opportunities for all
- will improve on living standards and quality of life for everyone now and in the future
- will be more transport accessible to everyone over the full country
- include the diversity of its citizens in making policy
- build enough amenities at the same time as homes
- have a government that will treat the population with fairness, compassion and transparency
- provide a tolerant, safe, secure and stable environment for all people to grow
Reflecting on the impact of Covid-19
The original Assembly design envisaged finalising the Assembly vision in weekend 5 following the more detailed evidence sessions in weekends 3 and 4. However, circumstances changed and before turning to this final stage members discussed the impact of Covid-19 and how it may have influenced their views on what is important in a vision for the future of the country.
"The lay of the land has changed since we last met. There’s a huge obstacle in the road ahead. It’s now clear that we need systemic changes, in healthcare, social policy, employment, and protection of the vulnerable. I’ve seen it first-hand through the pandemic. People are living different lives."
Finalising the vision
Many of the priorities coming out of this discussion resonated with earlier ideas and provide a powerful insight into the concerns of citizens. Members identified a pressing need for a more equal and socially responsible country, for prioritising health and wellbeing, including an increased focus on mental health, and improving resilience planning. Supporting economic recovery and recognising the challenges around public finance were important. Strengthening devolution and improving working between governments, as well as improving decision making through citizen involvement, were highlighted as means to secure positive progress going forward. Members also recognised that the pandemic had not reduced the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. Annex 10 provides a summary of these reflections.
Finalising the vision
In weekend 6 members came together to reflect on all of the work so far and prepare a final for the future of the country. Working in small groups they crafted the words to represent the culmination of this long and rich journey, reviewed texts prepared by other groups and came together to vote in a series of stages to decide the final vision.
This final stage was a very challenging exercise, especially working online rather than in person when it is so much more difficult to ensure that everyone is fully engaged and that their views are included. For some members it was disappointing that some statements which otherwise were widely supported did not make it into the final list. However, findings from the weekly research survey show that 80% of members felt that the requirements for each element to be agreed was fair.
"It’s not easy to reach consensus. We’re talking about 90% agreement and that makes it very reliable, very authentic, and valid. You can’t just dismiss it with the wave of a hand. This was the people of Scotland speaking."
All of the ideas developed during over the course of the Assembly are important and are captured in this report. The voting outcomes on weekend 6 are set out at Annex 11.
"The weekend brought together all the work and all the words that we’ve considered over various weeks, and represent the view of the people of Scotland as represented by the Citizens’ Assembly. We were trying to distil all the work down into meaningful, powerful and actually achievable statements. Because we could write to the moon, but actually what we need is to have a document that tells our citizens, politicians, managers and authorities what it is we think is important."