THE Scottish Tories have called for a boycott of the new Citizens Assembly of Scotland, calling it a “Nationalist stunt” designed to advance independence.

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said the plan was “nothing but a talking shop for independence” and Unionists should “give it a wide berth”.

The Scottish LibDems also said they would have nothing to do with the public forum and said taxpayers’ money should not be spent on a “party political process”.

The attacks followed SNP Constitution Relations Secretary Michael Russell setting out more details on the assembly and naming Scottish Labour MEP David Martin as a convener.

READ MORE: Scottish citizens’ assembly ‘must be representative of society’

Nicola Sturgeon announced the assembly in April when she published legislation paving the way for a second independence referendum.

Based on the Irish assembly that debated abortion and other divisive issues outside the normal political process, the Scottish version is intended to look at three main questions: the kind of country we should be, overcoming challenges including Brexit, and giving people the information they need to make informed choices about Scotland’s future.

The plan is for 120 citizens broadly representative of Scotland’s population to be selected over the summer, with six weekend assemblies held between autumn and spring 2020.

Mr Russell said the assembly would be independent from government with an arms-length secretariat, and would be transparent, inclusive, accessible, balanced, and open-minded.

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He said Mr Martin, who was kicked out the European Parliament by voters last month after 35 years, had agreed in principle to be one of its independent conveners.

A second convener will be chosen in the coming months.

He said the assembly itself would explore matters as it saw fit, shaping its own remit and procedures, and its recommendations would be taken on board by the government.

He said: “It is important that the Assembly is clearly seen to be independent when reflecting on the debate that Scotland needs.

“This Parliament is rightly proud of the first 20 years of our reconvened existence. But democracy does not stand still. We have to keep innovating in order to keep moving.

"When we see, in the Brexit issue, a complete breakdown in trust between politicians and people, surely it should inspire all of us, no matter our political allegiance, to find new ways to bring politicians and people together to resolve deep seated division.

“Citizens’ assemblies are becoming an established way for mature democracies to engage with complex and contested issues on an inclusive, informed and respectful basis. That is what we want for Scotland.”

But opposition parties suspect the exercise is part of the SNP’s wider effort to secure a second independence referendum and win a Yes vote.

Earlier this month the senior SNP MP Joanna Cherry described the Assembly as “part of the process of preparing voters in Scotland for a second independence referendum”.

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Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said not unbiased, but aimed at delivering independence.

He said: “My view is that there is a role for Citizens Assemblies in Scotland. 

“There are some issues parliamentary democracy is struggling to resolve, such as long term care for the elderly.

“Sadly, what the SNP propose is another national conversation on Scotland’s constitutional future. We’ve heard it all before, and here we go again.

“Last week we learned that one of the lessons from Ireland was that to be effective, citizens assemblies need cross-party buy-in at the beginning of the process.

“Well this one does not have that. This is not a genuine attempt at a citizens assembly in Scotland, it’s a Nationalist stunt to kickstart a conversation about independence, and as such I’m afraid we will have nothing to do with it and I urge all Unionists in Scotland to see this for what it is and to give it a wide berth.”

Labour MSP Claire Baker said her party would give the Assembly "a degree of support" provided the SNP Government could show it was not part of its drive to secure Indyref2, and the Scottish Parliament was able to scrutinise its remit.

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: “This assembly is an attempt to sew some new patches on the SNP’s dodgy case for independence.

“It is not set up to consider how to make Scotland better but to make the SNP look better. “Taxpayer’s money should not be used for a party-political exercise like this.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will not take part in this process so long as it is clear that regardless of what the citizens recommend, SNP ministers will still think they know better.”

Mr Russell said the response of the LibDems and Tories was “disappointing”.

He said: “This is an experiment in democracy for Scotland. Let us be open to that experiment. Let us not find ourselves in a position of trying to close down parts of that experiment before we've even started."

Greens MSP Patrick Harvie welcomed “the idea of an inclusive, deliberative assembly”.

He said: “I’m pleased it will be politically independent, but can draw on advice from a diverse, cross-party team. I urge all political parties to get behind the idea.

“Citizens' assemblies have worked well in other countries, but only when government genuinely listens. That’s why I look forward to seeing how Scotland’s version takes on environmental priorities. If the assembly chooses to address issues like energy policy or to offer their own response to the climate emergency, they must be free to do so.”

Mr Russell also announced the launch of a new website,, giving details of the new project.