Democracy in Scotland: what’s the place of the Citizens’ Assembly?

There is a growing dissatisfaction with our democratic process. People are no longer happy just to put an X in a box when an election or a referendum comes along.

Deliberative democracy, sometimes known as ‘mini publics’, which directly involve a representative group of citizens learning about, discussing and drawing conclusions on a topic is seen as one option for engaging and informing the wider public.

Scotland will have its own experiment in deliberative democracy through its new Citizens’ Assembly, which begins its work at the end of October.

It will consider the following broad questions:

  • What kind of country are we seeking to build?
  • How can we best overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
  • What further work should be carried out to give people the detail they need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

In this public lecture, hosted by Policy Scotland, David Martin, the Co-Convenor of the Assembly, set out his hopes and aspirations for this democratic innovation. He explained how the citizens were selected, the way in which the Assembly will carry out its work and how it will feed into the wider political process. 

Watch the lecture

About David Martin

David Martin was a Scottish Labour Member of the European Parliament for 35 years (1984-2019).

He was the longest serving UK MEP and longest serving Vice President of the Parliament (1989-2004), gaining extensive experience of the political systems in Scotland and Europe and effective forms of engaging with the public.

He was the European Parliament’s spokesperson on the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties. As a senior member of the International Trade Committee he was responsible for steering numerous trade agreements through the Parliament.

Based on this experience, he was appointed Professor of Public Policy at the University of Glasgow. In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Punjab for services to EU-Pakistan relations.

David is a member of the First Minister’s Standing Council on Europe which provides advice to the First Minister on Brexit and the European Union.

In summer 2019 he was appointed as co-convener of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland. He and Kate Wimpress took office as co-conveners on 6 August 2019.

He holds a BA (Hons) in Economics and an MA in European Management and Employment Law.

Further reading

If you’d like to learn more about Citizens’ Assemblies and mini-publics have look at the resources and examples on the What Works Scotland website.


The lecture took place on Monday 30 September 2019 at the Sir Charles Wilson Building, University of Glasgow