EXTINCTION Rebellion have walked away from the Scottish Government’s Climate Assembly, accusing ministers of allowing “vested interests” to take over.

They claim the civil service has tried to water down the urgency of the summit due to start this weekend.

The creation of a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change was enshrined in a law as part of 2019’s Climate Change Act.

The remit includes considering “how to prevent or minimise, or remedy or mitigate the effects of, climate change” and making recommendations on “measures proposed to achieve the emissions reduction targets”.

Like other Citizens’ Assemblies, it’s to be made up of a cross section of Scotland’s population.

Letters were sent out to 20000 people in September inviting them to register an interest in becoming one of the 100 assembly members.

Over six weekends, those chosen will be expected to go through a “three-step process of learning, deliberation, and decision making” with final recommendations laid out in a report for Parliament and the Scottish Government.

READ MORE: Extinction Rebellion: Why we’re walking away from Citizens’ Assembly on climate

The legislation means that ministers are required, within six months, to tell Parliament how they will respond to the recommendations

The Scottish Government say that for the assembly members to get to the point where they can make those recommendations they will be “presented with a wide range of balanced information from key experts, other stakeholders, and campaigners.”

However, Extinction Rebellion have questioned that process.

Writing in today’s National, Extinction Rebellion’s Kate Dyer and Justin Kenrick - who both resigned their position on the Assembly’s Stewarding Group on Friday - say the “chances of letting citizens really discuss the critical issues have become vanishingly small".

They write: “The experts who have been allowed to decide what materials Assembly members are provided with, as the basis of their deliberations, have been largely chosen by the civil servants. Rather than enabling a full spectrum of opinions to be heard, so that people can come to their own conclusions, and make their own assessment of the value of current policy and targets, business as usual has been allowed to creep in and then take over."

Dr Oliver Escobar, a senior lecturer in Public Policy from Edinburgh University who sits on the Steering Group, said he was disappointed that Extinction Rebellion had left.

“They made a huge contribution to the groundwork we’ve been doing in preparation for the Climate Assembly for the last eight months. I will miss their perspective, constructive challenge and practical ideas in the group.

“But despite their critique of the process, I don’t think people in Scotland (and beyond) should give up on this Citizens’ Assembly before it has even started. These kinds of democratic innovations, by their very nature, are living organisms: you cannot predict how it will work or the conclusions it will reach.

“I don’t see a reason why this Assembly cannot produce a result that is transformative at the level required to address the climate emergency and ecological breakdown. It will be up to Assembly members to take their deliberations and conclusions as far as they want to take them.

Laura Moodie from the Scottish Greens, who also sits on the group, said it was “regrettable” that Extinction Rebellion had decided to stand down. “They’ve played an important and constructive role to date. I hope they’ll continue to provide input to the assembly’s work regardless of their formal status on the steering group.”

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A spokesperson for Scotland’s Climate Assembly said: “We invited Extinction Rebellion to join our stewarding group in the spirit of transparency and to ensure a range of perspectives informed the assembly design. They provided some constructive insight, and we are disappointed they have decided to leave.

“Our first commitment is always to our assembly members. We must ensure they hear balanced evidence from a range of experts that allows them to discuss and make recommendations on how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s Climate Assembly has been set up to be independent of Government and, as such, we have no influence over the content of the Assembly meetings. It is disappointing to hear that the Extinction Rebellion representatives have left the Assembly’s Stewarding Group.”

They added: “Scotland has the most ambitious legislative framework for emissions reduction in the world. And while Extinction Rebellion call for net zero by 2025, the Committee on Climate Change advise our world beating target of net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the UK, is already the limit of what can be achieved. Likewise our 2030 target of 75% reduction goes far beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed globally to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees.”