THE chair of the fledgling Citizens Assembly of Scotland has urged people not to boycott it, after it was condemned as “Nationalist stunt”.

Former Labour MEP David Martin, a co-convener of the Assembly, insisted it would be “entirely independent” from the SNP Government and asked people to “give it a chance”.

The Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats both refused to have anything to do with the new body, accusing ministers of using it to advance independence.

It followed SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC publicly describing the Assembly as “part of the process of preparing voters in Scotland for a second independence referendum”.

Nicola Sturgeon also announced the Assembly in April at the same time she published a Bill paving the way for a second independence referendum.

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said the 100-member Assembly, which is due to deliberate issues on Scotland’s future from this autumn, was a nationalist stunt and urged fellow unionists “to give it a wide berth”.

LibDem leader Willie Rennie added: "We are not participating in this latest SNP exercise that's been set up simply to patch up the SNP's case for independence."

READ MORE: Scottish Tories urge boycott of Citizens Assembly, dismissing it as 'Nationalist stunt'

Mr Martin, who is taking on the new role after his 35 years as an MEP for Scotland ends on Tuesday, told the Press Association he was "extremely disappointed" by their stance.

He said: “I think that is a very disappointing move. I understand the heat around the whole constitutional issue, but I have taken this on because I believe it is a genuine attempt to find out if there is consensus on some of the controversial issues facing Scotland."

He added: "It is being set up by the Government, there is no getting away from that, but I have been assured once set up it will be entirely independent, we will be able to operate completely freely and as chairman I will be doing my utmost to ensure that is the case.

"So I hope that the sceptics will give it a chance and I actually do think once it gets up and running the public will be enthused by it because it is going to be an open process, all the documentation will be available not just to the Assembly people but the wider public, we're hoping it might be livestreamed, and so on.

“I am quite optimistic this will engage people, so I hope the political parties will give it a chance."

He said critics of the Assembly should "judge it at the end, not at the beginning".

Mr Martin urged the other parties: "If at the end they think it is a political stunt they can come out and declare that.

"But give it a chance, let's see how it operates, and if it does I think it could make a big contribution to greater public understanding of the issues we face and perhaps help build more of a consensus in Scotland."

READ MORE: Tom Gordon: Citizens Assembly backlash is of the SNP’s making

Members of the Assembly (120 including 20 substitutes) are being selected over the summer and are due to part in a series of meetings over six weekends lasting until spring of 2020.

The Assembly is based on the Constitutional Convention and Citizens Assembly exercises in Ireland, which led to referendums approving the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion.

The First Minister has said the Assembly will look at "What kind of country are we seeking to build?

"How can we best overcome the challenges that we face, including those that arise from Brexit?

"What further work should be carried out to give the people the detail that they need to make informed choices about the future?”