More details on citizens’ assembly to be revealed by end of next month

More details about Nicola Sturgeon’s planned citizens’ assembly should be revealed by the end of next month, MSPs have been told.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell said the Scottish Government also hoped to have published a framework Bill, laying down regulations for a future second independence referendum, by then.

He spoke the day after the First Minister confirmed her intention to press ahead with a fresh ballot on the topic before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021, if Brexit goes ahead.

She said then that legislation laying down the rules for a future referendum would be introduced “shortly”, while also revealing her SNP government would seek to have talks with other parties on the Parliament’s powers.

A citizens’ assembly will be set up to “bring together a representative cross-section of Scotland” to consider issues such as what kind of country Scotland should be, Ms Sturgeon said.

Mr Russell told members of the Scottish Parliament’s Europe Committee: “What I hope to do is, in terms of the Bill and in terms of the citizens’ assembly, to come back to Parliament towards the end of May with some views and ideas for discussion.”

He told the committee he was “personally very enthusiastic” about the establishment of a citizens’ assembly.

Mr Russell added: “This is an opportunity for us to have constructive, respectful dialogue in a time when that is difficult, and I freely acknowledge that.

“In an age of extremes where everything seems extreme it is important we try to do that.

“I appreciate the first view of some people maybe to say ‘we’re having nothing to do with this, this is completely pointless, we’re having nothing to do with it’.

“I just want to take a bit of time to step back from that and I hope others might want to as well.”

He stressed while it was hoped there would be initial proposals for the assembly by the end of next month, it would be a “work in progress and people should influence that progress”.

The planned talks with opposition parties will look at the “the necessary changes to repair the badly broken system” of devolution, Mr Russell said.

He added: “The First Minister has, I think, written to the party leaders inviting them to take part in this and I will shortly contact them to seek initial meetings.

“I want this to be an open and constructive process … I’ll try to find a way in which we can enter into dialogue, some people may choose not to, some people may choose to.

“I hope people will do and I look forward it.”

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