THE chairman of Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly has urged Unionist politicians not to boycott the new body.

Veteran Labour MEP David Martin – who has been unveiled as one of the co-conveners of the assembly – insisted it would be “entirely independent” from the Scottish Government.

However, both the Tories and LibDems have said they will not be taking part in the new body, which is being set up by ministers to consider what Scotland’s future should be.

Tory constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins dismissed it as a “nationalist stunt to kick-start the conversation about independence”, and has said the party would not participate.

LibDem leader Willie Rennie (pictured below) similarly stated: “We are not participating in this latest SNP exercise that’s been set up simply to patch up the SNP’s case for independence.”

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Martin, who is taking on the new role after 35 years as an MEP for Scotland, said he was “extremely disappointed” by their stance.

He said: “I think that is a very disappointing move. I understand the heat around the whole constitutional issue, but I have taken this on because I believe it is a genuine attempt to find out if there is consensus on some of the controversial issues facing Scotland.”

The National:

“It is being set up by the Government, there is no getting away from that, but I have been assured once set up it will be entirely independent, we will be able to operate completely freely and as chairman I will be doing my utmost to ensure that is the case.

“So I hope that the sceptics will give it a chance and I actually do think once it gets up and running the public will be enthused by it because it is going to be an open process, all the documentation will be available not just to the assembly people but the wider public, we’re hoping it might be livestreamed, and so on.

“I am quite optimistic this will engage people, so I hope the political parties will give it a chance.”

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Critics of the assembly should “judge it at the end, not at the beginning,” he added.

Martin urged the other parties: “Give it a chance, let’s see how it operates, and if it does I think it could make a big contribution to greater public understanding of the issues we face and perhaps help build more of a consensus in Scotland.”

Under proposals revealed by Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell, the Citizens’ Assembly will consist of 120 members of the public, who will be chosen at random.

They will take part in a series of meetings over six weekends, starting in the autumn of this year and going into the spring of 2020.