NICOLA Sturgeon said she intends to set up a Citizens’ Assembly as part of the push for independence.

Sounds like a good idea. Members of the public from across the country selected to sit in a forum to discuss the big issues of the day.

In this case how Scotland should respond to leaving the EU when a majority of those who voted in the referendum was in favour of remaining.

The assembly will be able to take evidence from experts and debate the pros and cons of different positions, come to conclusions and reach an agreed position.

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It sounds sounds like the job of a parliament to me. The Scottish Parliament.

Details are sketchy at the moment but the First Minister said she was impressed by the Irish Citizens’ Assembly which was set up to discuss big topics that confronted, and in some cases, divided the nation, like the decriminalisation of abortion.

In Ireland it was made up of 99 members selected randomly but from a cross section of the country, so it is fair to assume that is similar to how a Scottish Citizens’ assembly would be made up.

But there is a difference. Ireland was grappling with a huge change in the country’s law over an issue that had implications for religious beliefs and the power of the church over policy and people’s lives.

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In Scotland the proposed assembly is undoubtedly part of the SNP’s campaign for independence.

It is being set up by a party in government which has a clear and stated position in favour of independence and nothing will shift that view.

If the assembly was to deliberate and then state by a majority, that it was opposed to independence would that mean the end of the independence campaign?

Would the Scottish Government abandon the legislation it is planning for another referendum and call of plans to seek power to hold a referendum?

No, is the answer most people would come to.

Also, given it is part of a campaign with the ultimate objective of achieving independence, would those who are strongly opposed to independence want to take part.

No again, is the likely answer. Which raises questions of how representative it can be.

In the First Minister’s announcement she said that she wants to have a second referendum on independence by May 2021.

If that is the government’s position then what role will a citizens’ assembly have in that if it is to be part of that process.

If a referendum is to take place it most likely would be in the autumn of 2020 in order not to clash with Holyrood elections the following May.

The legislation would need to be passed and power granted by Westminster by the Spring of 2020 for it to go ahead.

That leaves less than a year for a citizens assembly to be established its remit decided members selected, business conducted and conclusions reached and published.

It all sounds very ambitious. For it to be able to have a serious input to the debate then a referendum by 2021 is unlikely.

The alternative is it is talking shop to fill the time and tick a citizen engagement box.

We elect politicians to be representative of the population. Anyone can stand for election to a council or Holyrood or Westminster.

If we had a citizens’ assembly of say around 100 members and a parliament of 129 MSP’s which is the real representation of the will of the people?

If it can be ignored by the elected politicians then it is little more than a glorified focus group or expensive opinion poll.

Our MSPs are citizens, they are supposed to be representative of society. If we need a citizens’ assembly as well then there is a failure in how we elect our representatives.

It suggest that MSPs are somehow not citizens.

Perhaps many of them are not and first and foremost are representatives of a particular political party instead.

Everything a citizens’ assembly would do, including taking evidence from experts from across society, should be done by the Scottish Parliament.