THE Scottish Climate Citizens Assembly gathers to consider the Scottish Government’s response to the Assembly’s 81 recommendations this weekend.

The Government’s warm reception is understandable, given that the recommendations stem from an Assembly process firmly rooted within a business-as-usual model that prioritises profits over a healthy planet, and financiers over key workers.

Perhaps out of fear of rocking the boat, the civil servants guiding the process insisted – in effect – that Assembly members use the Government’s 2045 net zero target as their aim. Members were not allowed to look at the systemic causes of the crisis, assess its depth or consider the adequacy of the current response for themselves.

The Government supports, or partially supports 69 of the 81 (86%) Assembly recommendations none of which challenge business as usual. They highlight the climate crisis as an opportunity to “grow our economy” and to support “businesses to innovate and change to realise these economic opportunities”. This is exactly the mindset that has caused and continues to deepen the crisis.

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The Government supports the less specific recommendations (eg: “to make our towns, cities and neighbourhoods safer and more appealing to walk and cycle in”), those where they are already acting, and those which relate to behaviour change rather than structural change.

In the 17 recommendations where Assembly members have made some effective, challenging and timebound recommendations, the Government’s response is to kick the can down the road.

For example, the recommendation on building quality (buildings produce 20% of Scotland’s emissions through heating), to “update building standards to ensure that, within the next five years, all new housing is built to Passivhaus standards”, and “retrofitting of all existing homes by 2030 to be net zero”. This was agreed by 97% of the members (one of the highest levels of agreement). This would not only help reduce carbon emissions drastically, but would bring homes out of fuel poverty, create thousands of jobs and reduce the burden on our NHS by improving the living conditions for hundreds of thousands of people.

The Government’s response was – in effect – to ignore the urgency of the issue, dismiss the recommendation, and refer to ongoing consultation, meaning many homes will continue to suffer ongoing damp and mould until 2040.

Likewise with transport, the biggest single emitter of emissions in Scotland. The Assembly recommended we “make public transport cheaper, or free, by reviewing tender processes to focus government subsidies into nationalised public/private partnerships or not for profit public transport providers”. The Government response shows zero appetite for structural change, focusing instead on an existing review of fares.

Assembly members worked hard to arrive at some very good specific targets and recommendations. The Assembly Stewarding Group came up with an astute question, but the very weak process then put in place inevitably produced results that in no way match the scale, severity and urgency of the climate crisis.

Extinction Rebellion Scotland left the Climate Assembly Stewarding Group before the Assembly had begun. Despite best efforts it had become obvious that this process was not being designed to be balanced, proportionate and effective.

Scots have been badly served by this process. The Government has co-opted the concept of an emergency and used a weak Citizens Assembly process as inclusion theatre, fabricating an illusory consensus that our only option is to continue with the business-as-usual model, rather than enabling a mandate for the action needed to deal effectively with the climate emergency.

The Assembly proposals and Government response takes us a few steps in the right direction on an escalator that is fast moving us the other way towards ecological disaster.

However, it would be a mistake to take this weak outcome as evidence that Assemblies don’t work.

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With balanced expert input and time to be able to arrive at their own understanding of the level of the emergency, and the transformations needed to address it, Assemblies can be the way to break the business-as-usual logjam that is paralysing effective action.

Politics-as-usual is manifestly not working. We have to stop outsourcing our collective decisions to politicians and get skillful at the difficult, messy and creative business of deciding together how we live together.

We need a deeper democracy to deal effectively with the root causes – not only of the climate and ecological emergency – but of the many other social and economic emergencies Scots face every day.

A group of activists who were involved in trying to help the Assembly succeed have gone on to form Grassroots to Global and are working to build a people-led Citizens Assembly to democratically achieve what political parties have proved themselves incapable of doing.