NICOLA Sturgeon has announced plans to set up a Citizens’ Assembly in Scotland, taking inspiration from a similar move in Ireland.

The First Minister said she had been “struck” by the Irish example and insisted there was a need to “lay a foundation that allows us to move forward together, whatever decisions we ultimately arrive at”.

Ireland’s Assembly was an effort to put citizens at the heart of important legal and policy issues, including abortion, climate change and the challenges of an ageing population.

Its creation was approved by both houses of the Irish parliament in July 2016, and it was made up of 99 members chosen at random to represent the views of the people of Ireland.

These members were broadly representative of wider society as reflected in the census, including by age, gender, and social class.

There was also a chair appointed by the Government – former Supreme Court judge, the Honourable Mary Laffoy.

In total, the Assembly met on 12 occasions between October 2016 and April 2018.

Each meeting consisted of a full weekend – Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon – at a venue on the outskirts of Dublin.

In April 2017, the Assembly recommended Ireland introduce unrestricted access to abortion, following five months of intensive debate.

Members voted 64% to 36% in favour of the move – and just over a year later, a referendum on the issue saw the law overturned by a majority of 66.4%.

It was a dramatic and historic moment for Ireland, and the Citizens’ Assembly played a direct part in making it happen.

Addressing MSPs, Ms Sturgeon conceded the circumstances in Scotland are different, but insisted the principle is a sound one.

She said Scotland’s Assembly would bring together “a representative cross section” of society, with an independent chair at the helm.

It will be tasked with considering the type of country that Scots want to build, and what information they need to make an informed choice about the future.

Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell will set out further details shortly and will seek views from other parties about the Assembly’s “operation and remit”.