THE Scottish Government has expressed "disappointment" after direct action environmental activists Extinction Rebellion confirmed that it is boycotting its Climate Assembly.

The group's Scottish wing, XR Scotland said it will leave the stewarding group of the assembly as it can "no longer endorse" it as a "good enough" response to the climate emergency.

Extinction Rebellion had taken to the streets to demand a national citizens’ assembly with powers to legislate a faster transition to net zero emissions.

The UK Parliament confirmed it was forming a citizens’ assembly last year to tackle climate change, with 30,000 invitation letters landing on people’s doorsteps from November 6.

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At the time Extinction Rebellion – which has been lobbying the government to create such an assembly – said it was “an important first step towards real democracy in the UK”, but raised concerns the government could simply ignore the advice.

The creation of a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change in Scotland was enshrined in a law as part of 2019’s Climate Change Act.

The remit includes considering “how to prevent or minimise, or remedy or mitigate the effects of, climate change” and making recommendations on “measures proposed to achieve the emissions reduction targets”.

The assembly is being asked to consider how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency in a way that is effective and fair.

It can consider how to minimise the effects of climate change and make recommendations on measures proposed to achieve targets.

Made up of 100 members, it will meet over six weekends to carry out a “three-step process of learning, deliberation and decision-making” before reporting its final recommendations to Holyrood and the SNP government.

The assembly, which will meet for six weekends starting on Saturday, is collecting ideas and is due to report to the Scottish Parliament at the end of February next year.

Under the Climate Change Act, ministers must announce within six months how they intend to respond to its recommendations.

But XR Scotland said that it was with "great reluctance" that it decided it could not endorse the assembly.


It said that that initially had the appearance of a "very promising process" had become "increasingly controlled by the Secretariat, which whilst proclaiming independence from government is actually staffed by civil servants, and uses government processes, ways of working and attitudes towards the scale of the crisis".

It added: "XR has worked really hard to make this Assembly a success, but we will not endorse a citizens assembly that has had blinkers put on it and so can’t have the chance to develop a sufficient response to the climate emergency. It is because we see citizens assemblies as so crucial that we cannot endorse one that is not good enough," it said.

"The science is clear. We are heading towards a catastrophic rise in global temperatures which are putting the systems which support life on this planet at real risk. The political, economic and media systems which have led us to this point are unable to find a way out of this for many reasons, including the fact that initiating the transformations required seems impossible for politicians tied to a 4 to 5 year election cycle, corporations tied to economic growth and short term profit, and a UK media that is largely controlled by 5 billionaires who have a strong track record in climate denial.

"Citizens Assemblies can break this deadlock, if organised with enough ambition and ability to actually trust the people to consider and assess the dilemma we are in. In France, we have seen an Assembly which became the focus of a much larger whole society debate; in Ireland, Assemblies on abortion and gay marriage made recommendations politicians would never have been able to make for fear of losing votes.

We stayed in the Stewarding Group process for as long as we felt we were helping to make it better. We have now left to try to make a difference from the outside.

"We remain utterly committed to trusting the people through well-informed and well-facilitated citizens assemblies to decide the steps we as a society need to take to tackle the multiple crises our system creates. We can work to support people in communities and in society at large to use deliberative processes such as peoples assemblies to collectively consider the crises we face and the steps we need to take to address them.

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"If the Government is unable to hold a climate citizen’s assembly that is up to the task (by being unable to create one in an inclusive, open and ambitious way) then we will have to find the resources to do it ourselves.

"By ‘ourselves’ we don’t mean XR Scotland, we mean all those who are passionately concerned about the need to transform a political, economic and media system that is unable to solve the problem it has created."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland’s Climate Assembly has been set up to be independent of Government and, as such, we have no influence over the content of the Assembly meetings. It is disappointing to hear that the Extinction Rebellion representatives are leaving the Assembly’s Stewarding Group.

“The Assembly will be a crucial part of involving citizens in our transition to net zero. Being a member will be both a privilege and a responsibility. People will be asked to learn from experts and each other; to deliberate and to be respectful of others’ views in making recommendations that will impact almost every aspect of our future as we become a net-zero society.

“Scotland has the most ambitious legislative framework for emissions reduction in the world. And while Extinction Rebellion call for net zero by 2025, the Committee on Climate Change advise our world beating target of net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the UK, is already the limit of what can be achieved. Likewise our 2030 target of 75% reduction goes far beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed globally to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ending our contribution to climate change and is leading the way globally in this regard.”

A spokesman for Scotland’s Climate Assembly said: “We invited Extinction Rebellion to join our stewarding group in the spirit of transparency and to ensure a range of perspectives informed the assembly design. They provided some constructive insight, and we are disappointed they have decided to leave.

“Our first commitment is always to our assembly members. We must ensure they hear balanced evidence from a range of experts that allows them to discuss and make recommendations on how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way.”