SCOTLAND’S new Citizen’s Assembly will be avowedly non-party political and entirely independent of the Scottish Government, a meeting to preview the Assembly was told in Edinburgh last night.

David Martin, the long-serving former Labour MEP who lost his seat at the European elections in May, is the co-convener of the Assembly. The second co-convener has yet to be named but will be a woman.

Martin said: “Given some of the coverage of this, I want to emphasise this [Assembly] will be completely independent of Government. Of course the Government has set it up and it gives it credibility that the Government has set it up, because that it gives it a status, but one established I have had unequivocal assurances from the minister responsible, Mike Russell, that the two co-chairs will be independent and will manage the process themselves.

“There will be no external political interference once it is established.

“It will also be as transparent as possible.”

Martin emphasised to the meeting what the Assembly would not be about. He said: “It is not going to decide whether Scotland should have a second referendum because that’s a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government.”

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Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP, who caused controversy with her view that the Assembly might help prepare for independence, addressed the issue of the Unionist parties calling for a boycott of the Assembly.

She said: “I would hope that as its remit becomes more focused, other parties will be able to buy into this.

“The Citizens Assembly is not about whether or not Scotland should become an independent country. My personal view is that having a Citizens’ Assembly may assist on that path, others may think it may underline the devolution we have is enough, who knows?

“The citizens of the whole of Scotland will be asked to solve this thorny problem in a second referendum at a time yet to be determined.”

Hosted by Edinburgh University and the Electoral Reform Society, last night’s event was moved to a bigger venue to cater for demand for tickets, and the event was also livestreamed.

After an initial hitch with microphones, the panellists gave their views.

After recalling her own experience in acting as the Speaker of the People’s Parliament programme on Channel 4, National columnist Lesley Riddoch said that in Scotland there is still a class divide in which working class people are worried about voicing their opinion.

She added: “I think this will be potentially the making of our country that has been top down too long.”

Louise Caldwell, member of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, described the experience of being an Assembly member and how the Assembly had been given the topic of Ireland’s abortion law to discuss.

“It was a a very difficult topic, extremely divisive,” she said, adding that when the Assembly came to vote on the issues it w as just 1% out from how the referendum actually voted.

Professor David Farrell, Research leader of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, told how the Assembly met in a wedding venue hotel: “It was round table with trained facilitators to ensure that the people would each have an opportunity of fair voice, and everyone in there was not representing anybody else but themselves.

“They won the lottery. They had the honour and privilege of being chosen by representatives of their Government to come and have a series of discussions about the kind of Ireland they wanted to see.

“It worked.”

Paolo Escobar of Edinburgh University said: “I hear all the people in the media and on social media saying this is something new that this particular Government has pulled out of a hat. Nothing could be further from the truth, we have been experimenting with these kind of processes on a smaller scale all over Scotlannd now for 20 years.”