ORDINARY citizens randomly selected to serve in a second Holyrood chamber should be paid £55,000 a year to improve democracy, a think tank claims.
The Common Weal think tank first outlined its plan for a Scottish alternative to the House of Lords in a submission to an international political reform project.
Now the independent body has released full details of its proposed Citizens’s Assembly as discussions continue about the country’s future.
Loading article content
In a new paper, Dr Brett Hennig of the non-profit Sortition Foundation claims the move would mark a “profound increase in the legitimacy” of the country’s laws and governance.
Stating that the chamber “is not only feasible but an urgent necessity”, he claims the move would be “a momentous decision and put Scotland at the forefront of democratic innovation.”
Acting as a house of review, the house could amend or delay bills created by MSPs and have the power to introduce its own bills on limited subjects and establish enquiries.
Under the plan, 73 people would be selected from the general population to serve for terms of one or two years, receiving salaries of £55,000 – twice the median wage of a full time worker and £2,000 more than MSPs.
The three-stage selection process would see invitations sent to 5,000 people whose names were taken at random from the electoral roll.
Those who then attended an information day would be asked to submit details including gender, age, constituency and education level or income, before the Electoral Commission and Office for National Statistics whittled this group down to best represent the country’s demographics.
This would mean matching the overall gender ratio and picking a final 73 which reflects the population’s age brackets and other categories, ensuring that “there will be someone in the CA with your age, someone from your area, and someone with your background”.
Like jury duty, participation would be compulsory without an accepted excuse and any member guilty of corruption or serious criminal offence would be expelled and replaced.
Commenting on the paper, Hennig said: “A Citizens’s Assembly in the Scottish Parliament would increase the legitimacy of Scottish laws by providing solid evidence of support from a representative sample of deliberating Scottish citizens.”
Robin McAlpine, director of Common Weal, added: “The loss of faith that many people feel towards politics is not entirely fair, but it’s not entirely wrong either.
“The political system has become more of a closed shop and over recent decades the voice of citizens has taken second place to the voices of a political insider class.
“A Citizen’s Assembly would be a powerful voice for citizens at the heart of our political system and it would be an effective watchdog on professional politics.
“Scotland could pioneer a new kind of democracy for the 21st century in which power is broadly shared and people feel like they are at the heart.”
A NATIONAL MONUMENT FOR THE NEW REVISING CHAMBER?
A SCOTTISH alternative to the House of Lords could be set in a new national monument, it is claimed.
Dunfermline firm Fire Station Creative (FSC) says its structure could rival other landmarks including Falkirk’s Kelpies and Stirling’s Wallace Monument.
The four-sided Citizen Spire, intended for West Fife, will include a debating chamber and could become home to the Citizens’ Assembly proposed by the Common Weal think tank, it is claimed.
The design, which features an art gallery, cafe, lecture theatre and cinema, will be unveiled at an exhibition on Friday.
No funding or site has yet been secured, but FSC hopes the exhibition at its gallery will generate financial and public support.
Ian Moir of FSC says the initiative was inspired by his grandfather, who fought in the Spanish Civil War.
He said: “The foresight and courage of the International Brigades is now widely recognised. This proposal was conceived, therefore, with their sentiments and sacrifice in the forefront of mind.
“I believe, now more than ever, that we ought to explore our citizenship by expressive means – creativity, debate and education. For this to work properly, a purpose built venue is surely required.”
The Citizens’ Assembly (CA) paper states that the location of the new chamber could be “important and highly symbolic”.
It continues: “There is a strong argument to be made that it should not be in the same location as the first chamber, so as to reduce the potential influence of career politicians on CA members. Locating it in a social or culturally significant space where CA members can readily interact with a wide and diverse range of people could be important.”
Discussing the project, Moir said: “We want this structure to be functional as well as beautiful. That way, more people can come to terms with it. Once it’s been built, visitors will be able to go inside and explore the notion of citizenship on many different levels.”
The show runs until April 2, after which other venues will be sought.