A citizens’ assembly will help avoid the influence of “dark money and fake news” on plans for a second independence referendum, an MP has said.
Joanna Cherry, SNP home affairs spokeswoman, wants the assembly to consider the question of currency and urged delegates at the party’s spring conference to lobby their MSPs on issues to be discussed.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for a citizens’ assembly earlier this week in her speech at the Scottish Parliament confirming she would push for another independence referendum before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021, if Brexit goes ahead.
At a fringe event organised by the Electoral Reform Society Scotland at the conference in Edinburgh, delegates heard citizens’ assemblies involve people chosen at random to represent a cross-section of the population and consider often divisive issues.
Canada used a citizens’ assembly in 2004 and since then they have been held in several countries including Ireland, which used them during the abortion and equal marriage referendums.
In the latter cases, reports were produced for the Irish parliament.
Ms Cherry told delegates: “Really it’s about empowering people to make decisions and giving them the tools and the space in which to do that.
“It’s about making sure that the usual vested interest groups, power and money and what some of us call the MSM [mainstream media] cannot set the agenda.
“The citizens’ assembly is perhaps a way for us to move away from some of the concerns that some of us had that the debate in the last referendum was dominated by strong voices and some of the concerns that many people have about the Brexit referendum, that dark money and fake news influenced people’s thinking.
“People in the citizens’ assembly will be open to those pressures in their everyday lives, as we all are, but they will also be given the benefit of hearing evidence, both written and oral, from all sorts of people on the issue which is being discussed and the space and facilities to deliberate.”
She added: “A citizens’ assembly…is a concrete way to achieve our goal which is to create a consensus across Scotland and a bigger majority for Yes than exists at the moment.”
The MP was one of those behind a resolution to the conference calling for the creation of a citizens’ assembly, preempted by Ms Sturgeon’s announcement.