07 September, 2022

Scots consider how parliament can increase participation

On 2 September 2022 we transferred the details of 24 residents of Scotland to the organisers of the Citizens’ Panel on Participation. These 24 people will meet online and in-person in September and October 2022 consider the question

How can the Scottish Parliament best work with communities across Scotland to ensure their needs are reflected in our work?

The recommendations of the Citizens' Panel will be presented to the Scottish Parliament's Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee in November 2022. These recommendations will be used to inform the findings of the Committee’s inquiry into public participation at the Parliament and will help to  shape the work of the Scottish Parliament in the future.

Sortition Foundation was tasked with recruiting these 30 jury members. We worked with the Scottish Parliament to achieve this. Below we briefly describe the details of this recruitment process; the process followed our standard two-stage sortition template in conformity with the OECD's good practice principles for deliberative processes for public decision making.

Stage 1

We randomly selected 4800 addresses from across Scotland (200 addresses for every one of the needed 24 jury members). Each of these addresses received a letter in the post inviting residents to sign up as potential members of the climate assembly. We have learnt from past experience that people who live in more deprived areas tend to be less likely to respond to invitations of this kind, hence the random selection was weighted as follows: 80% of the addresses were chosen from the whole of Scotland; 20% of the addresses were chosen specifically from more deprived areas of Scotland. A map showing the 4800 addresses is here:

The invitation included the following summary card (as well as a letter and FAQ):


All participants in the Citizens' Panel will receive £330 in recognition of the considerable time and energy that the process required of them. Invitations were open for 2 weeks and at the end of this time 159 people had signed up as potential panel members.

Stage 2

As part of the sign-up procedure, all potential participants were required to share some basic information about themselves. We asked them to share their address, their date of birth, their gender, their ethnicity and their highest level of education qualification. We also asked if they describe themselves as having a disability.

We then used this information as input into a "sortition algorithm"; this is a process of randomly selecting our 24 panel members from the pool of 159 potential members in such a way that we have a representative sample (so, for instance, the age profile of jury members is broadly similar to the age profile of the Scotland population as a whole). The algorithm that we used is the fairest possible.

In addition to the information about gender, age, ethnicity, disability and attitude to personal data mentioned above, we also used the address of each respondent to ensure that the selected panel members lived across all of the regions of Scotland.

Details of the selection process for this assembly are summarised using the following pie charts, with further information following.

The way to understand these pie charts is as follows:

  • Column 1 (Target): These pie charts give information about the population of Scotland as a whole, using various publicly available statistics (for instance via the ONS). As an example, in the second row, you can see that 16.45% of the population in Scotland is between 25 and 34. 
  • Column 2 (Respondents): These pie charts summarise the information that was provided to us by the 159 people who signed up as potential participants. There is some skewing in statistics here compared with our target: for instance, notice that a higher proportion of people with Level 4 education or above signed up to participate as compared to what we might expect in the population. 
  • Column 3 ( Confirmed Selected): These pie charts summarise information about the 24 people who were finally confirmed to participate in the panel. Notice that, thanks to our use of a sortition algorithm, the pie charts in this column are very similar to the target charts in the first column. As part of our recruitment process all of these people were contacted by telephone to confirm that they were still willing and able to participate -- in the event that this was not the case, we used the sortition algorithm to replace people who dropped out with others who shared similar characteristics.

These particular pie charts have a few characteristics that warrant some extra comment:

  • On the ethnicity row there is a discrepancy between the "target" and "selected" pie charts. Typically if we have categories with very small numbers, then we will over recruit participants from these categories. This is good practice because it ensures that, in the event of a participant dropping out, we still have good representation from people from all categories.
  • The blue and red slices in the disability pie charts correspond to people with a long term disability which is limiting or not limiting, respectively.
  • On the education row there is a discrepancy between the "target" and "selected" pie charts -- we ended up selecting people with slightly higher educational qualifications, on average, then the overall population. This is partly because we had a number of participants withdrawing during the telephone-contact stage of the recruitment process. We are currently investigating ways to more effectively recruit participants with lower educational background.

What happened next

Update (24 Jan 2023): The Citizens’ Panel on Participation has published their report and they have made 17 recommendations to the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee on improving how the Scottish Parliament’s work involves, reflects, and meets the needs of the full range of communities it represents, focusing on improving engagement for those currently under-represented.  

Recommendations from the panel include improving community engagement, how the Parliament uses deliberative democracy, public involvement in Parliamentary business and the way Parliament communicates and educates the public on its work. 

The Committee has now published an interim report and launched a consultation on the Scottish Parliament’s Your Priorities platform inviting views on what recommendations should be prioritised and what actions need to be taken to deliver on them.  It is now possible for people to leave comments on the online platform; the aim is to have a good conversation about what recommendations the parliament should prioritise and about how the Panel’s recommendations can be implemented. 

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