THE Church of Scotland’s General Assembly and Scotland's first Citizens Assembly have both been hit by coronavirus.

The Citizens Assembly, the £1m experiment in tackling Scotland’s long-term challenges, had been due to hold its fifth weekend meeting from March 27 to 29.

This meeting and the sixth and final weekend meeting scheduled for April24 to 26 have both been shelved for public health reasons.

SNP Constitutional Relation Secretary Mike Russell, who helped set up the Assembly last year, backed the move, which was taken after consulting assembly members.

The Kirk said it had cancelled its General Assembly, which was due to open on May 16.

The week-long gathering would have brought almost 1000 people together in Edinburgh.

The Assembly, which has taken place since 1690, continued uninterrupted through the first and second world world wars.

Principal Clerk, Rev Dr George Whyte said the cancelling of the General Assembly had not been done lightly, but was “the only choice we could make”.

He said: “Our Assembly would have brought almost a thousand people to a week-long meeting in Edinburgh including visitors from overseas and from other churches.

“It is a time when we can celebrate being the Church and make important decisions about our future but these are exceptional times and people’s health must come first.

“We were also looking forward to welcoming the Duke of Cambridge as the Queen’s representative but we are assured that Prince William will understand our unavoidable decision. We hope that he may be Lord High Commissioner on another occasion.

“In the meantime the Church will find alternative ways to make urgent decisions including confirming the appointment of our new Moderator, the Rev Dr Martin Fair, who will take up his duties in May.”

The Citizens Assembly has 100 members.

A Citizens Assembly spokesperson said: “The Assembly will reconvene to complete its work as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, urgent consideration is being given to how the work of the Assembly can continue through digital activity.

“We have informed our members and will continue to communicate with them regularly.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but the health and wellbeing of all Assembly members is our top priority and it is important to provide as much certainty as we can in these difficult times.”