Many people no longer trust politicians and the political process; the feeling (justified or not) that politicians make short-term decisions based largely on political calculations – irrespective of citizens’ wishes – is undermining faith in democracy itself. Establishing a Citizens’ Assembly as a second chamber to the Scottish Parliament would increase public trust in parliament and boost the confidence of legislators that there is broad public backing for their decisions. We propose selecting a random, representative sample of 73 members of the public to fulfil this role for at least one but preferably two-year terms (with a portion of them rotating out every six months). A two year trial is proposed whereby the Citizens’ Assembly is granted only advisory powers, after which a citizens’ review would propose which future powers the Assembly should have, and suggest improvements to the processes outlined below.
― The Citizens’ Assembly would be selected by random sortition – i.e. a random sample of Scottish residents, balanced to reflect the demographics of Scotland.
― This Upper House would be permanent and distinct from any other Citizens’ Assemblies that Scotland could form to discuss either general views or a specific topic.
― Three models of Upper House are discussed. An Advisory Chamber would be the weakest form of Assembly, with the power to scrutinise bills and suggest amendments (in a manner similar to the current Committee system) and to apply censure to the Scottish Parliament or MSPs.
― The next model would be a House of Review similar to the House of Lords where bills could be directly amended or delayed but in most cases not permanently blocked.
― The most powerful Citizens’ Assembly would be a full Senate with the ability not only to amend legislation proposed by the Parliament but to introduce legislation of its own accord (with appropriate caveats).
― Citizens would be paid a rate comparable to MSPs while they sit for a two year term and provisions would be put in place – similar to those in place for juries – to support employers who lose their employee for this period and to assist Assembly members to re-integrate into their previous job when their term ends.