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Scotland’s Climate Assembly

​Purpose: To inform government decision-making on the climate crisis in line with Scotland’s Climate Change Act (2019). ​


Commissioning. Scottish Government.

​Task. “How should Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way?” [Note that the question was decided by the Stewarding Group through a facilitated deliberation process.]

​Commitment to respond. The Scottish Government was legally required to respond to the final report within six months.

​Governance. Secretariat (seconded civil servants), two independent Conveners, Stewarding Group (stakeholders and participation experts), Evidence Group.

​Delivery bodies. Involve and Democratic Society (design and facilitation leads), Sortition Foundation (recruitment).

​Participant recruitment. 105 members selected randomly using a postal civic lottery, applying the following criteria: age, gender, household income, ethnicity, geography, rurality, disability, and attitude towards climate change. All residents over 16 were eligible. 7 replacements were added before the second weekend and 102 citizens completed the final weekend. Members paid an honorarium and where necessary given hardware/software and training to support online engagement.

​Duration. Seven weekends between November 2020 and March 2021. The seventh weekend was added after Assembly members requested additional time for learning and deliberations. The assembly was designed to take place online.

​Structure. In weekends 1 and 2, the whole assembly learned about the science and ethics of climate change, Scotland’s contribution to climate change and adaptation, and considered future scenarios. In weekends 3, 4 and 5, the members divided randomly into 3 workstreams – Diet and Lifestyle; Homes and Communities; Work and Travel. In workstreams, members received evidence from and questioned experts and advocates, considered key challenges, and drafted recommendations. During weekends 6 and 7, the full assembly shared and reviewed the workstream recommendations, drafted and agreed a collective Statement of Ambition, developed supporting declarations for each recommendation, and voted on recommendations. The Assembly reconvened for a weekend in February 2022 to consider the Government’s response to their report.

​Facilitation. Small group facilitation to ensure fairness in participation and completion of tasks.

​Technology. Zoom, Jamboard, Googledocs (mainly used by table facilitators), Surveymonkey (voting).

​Evidence base. The Evidence Group oversaw the learning journey for the Assembly, ensuring that the Assembly was presented with diverse views on climate change, the degree of change necessary to tackle the climate emergency, and alternative approaches to achieving that change. Over 100 expert speakers provided evidence through video, question and answer sessions and in breakout room discussions. The Evidence Group undertook a technical review of initial proposals from the workstreams and final review of draft recommendations.

​Developing recommendations. Members drafted recommendations in their workstreams through an iterative process of discussion, consolidation and review and consideration of fairness propositions. Those recommendations prioritised through this process were discussed, reviewed, and redrafted by the full assembly to ensure consistency. The whole assembly drafted a Statement of Ambition and high-level goals.

​Decision-making. Members voted asynchronously on high level goals between Weekends 6 and 7 and on each recommendation (agree, disagree, abstain) after Weekend 7.

​Final report. The final report was tabled in the Scottish Parliament on 23 June 2021 by the Secretariat, following the Interim Report on 24th March 2021. 

​Communication. The Assembly website provides extensive details of organisation, presentations, written briefings and results. All presentations and question-and-answer sessions were made available on the website immediately after the session. Observers and media had access to the materials as they were shown to the Assembly and the option to join a one-hour session immediately after each Assembly weekend to hear about the weekend from speakers and organisers and ask questions on content and process. A pre-engagement exercise in October 2020 allowed the public to make suggestions on an online platform on what the Assembly should discuss, who should speak and how Scotland can reach net-zero targets. The Children’s Parliament ran an integrated programme with over 100 children in ten schools across Scotland, with comments from young people integrated into the final report. Some media coverage of assembly during the process and the publication of the reports.

​Official response. The Scottish Government published its response on 16 December 2021: a 162 page document which addressed all 81 recommendations made by the Assembly and included responses to the 42 calls to action made by the Children’s Parliament.

​Oversight of official response. The Assembly reconvened in February 2022 to review the government’s response to its recommendations, publishing its Statement of Response. The Assembly’s Statement of Response indicated that members were disappointed with the scale and speed of progress in the time since their recommendations were published.  

​Impact. The Assembly’s Secretariat actively promoted recommendations of the Assembly amongst public bodies and other stakeholders for a few months after the Assembly concluded. The full impact of this work is captured on the Assembly website. The Scottish Government has commitmented to continue to consider the Assembly’s recommendations as policy develops in Scotland, including in development of the next Climate Change Plan, and to co-designing upcoming Just Transition Plans with stakeholders and members of the public – a commitment influenced by the Assembly.

​Evaluation. An extensive evaluation led by university and government researchers included in budget of Assembly. Its final research report on the process, impat and assembly member experience was published in March 2022. Research data briefings for weekends 1, 4 and 7 are published on the assembly website.  

​Budget. The full cost of the Assembly was covered by Scottish Government. An indicative budget of £1.4 million was set; full details of final spend are yet to be released.

​Further resources. Video of KNOCA’s learning call on Scotland’s Climate Assembly

Scotland's Climate Assembly - YouTube

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