THOUSANDS have backed a call for Scotland to set up a new House of Citizens to hold Holyrood to account, which would be in “stark contrast” to the House of Lords.

The idea for a second Holyrood chamber was one of the recommendations put forward in January by Scotland’s first Citizens’ Assembly, which said it could “scrutinise government proposals and give assent to parliamentary bills”. Now, following the Holyrood election, campaigners are ramping up calls for MSPs to take action on a permanent Citizens’ Assembly.

More than 2000 people have signed the Electoral Reform Society and Sortition Foundation’s petition calling for a House of Citizens, which supporters say would be in contrast to Westminster’s House of Lords.  Willie Sullivan, director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland, said: “As the dust settles on last month’s election all Scots are now looking forward, and rebuilding after the pandemic.

 “But we can’t just have more of the same, with decisions made by a small group of professional politicians in Holyrood – it’s not good for them or us.

“We need a people-led democracy, to give voice to those who are experts in living their lives in Scottish communities.

“This was the overwhelming call of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, and is supported by voters.”

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He added: “A House of Citizens – set up to help Holyrood act in the interests of Scotland’s people –  would put citizens in the driving seat, not just on election day but throughout.

“All parties agreed to boost democracy in Scotland in the last election. This is the chance to put those words into action.”

Michael Gettins, a mental health support worker who took part in the Citizens Assembly of Scotland, said: “I think it’s great that the Scottish National Party are taking the views of ordinary Scottish people seriously. But if they believe, as I do, that citizens’ assemblies can act as a voice of Scottish people in parliament then that means listening to what they say.

 “We need a commitment from the politicians now to embed real people power into Scottish politics.”

The SNP’s manifesto promised to hold an annual Citizens’ Assembly on complex issues such as assisted dying and council tax. While campaigners welcomed that step, they are urging the SNP to “give the Scottish people the opportunity to shape a much broader raft of decisions than those chosen by politicians”.

Scotland is rare in having a one chamber parliament, and campaigners have pointed to the example of East Belgium, where a permanent citizens’ council has powers to help set the political agenda.

A report published last year mapped out how a House of Citizens could work, suggesting it would be filled by a demographically representative sample of 73 members of the public selected by lottery and paid a salary comparable to that of an MSP.

An initial three-year trial was also proposed, during which it would have advisory powers only, before a review to decide what future powers it should hold.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “The undemocratic House of Lords underlines everything that is wrong with the broken Westminster system. It’s stuffed full of unelected and unaccountable Tory and Labour Party donors and cronies, who are handed jobs for life and can each claim thousands of pounds in tax free allowances every year at taxpayers’ expense. It absolutely stinks.

“It’s crucial that once the Covid crisis is over people in Scotland have the opportunity to determine our future in an independence referendum, so we can shake off Westminster and build a fair and democratic future as an independent country.”