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Election 2021: Highland SNP candidate backs the creation of citizens' assemblies to help decide local issues as the party seeks to break with the centralisation of the past

By Scott Maclennan

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Caithness, Sutherland and Ross candidate Maree Todd.
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross candidate Maree Todd.

The SNP candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Maree Todd, has pledged her support for citizens’ assemblies to improve local democracy and empower communities.

A citizens’ assembly is a group of people, selected to be representative of the wider population, who are brought together to reach a conclusion on how to tackle a certain issue.

The move marks a sharp turn away from centralisation that has been a hallmark of some SNP practices in the past.

Nationally the Citizens' Assembly of Scotland has met eight times since 2019 to consider issues like how to build a better country and how to deal with major challenges.

According to Ms Todd, if re-elected the party hopes to use citizens’ assemblies to consider community issues and to develop local solutions and improve local democracy.

Ms Todd said: “The best people to decide the future of our communities are the people who live in them. Participative democracy and creating space for genuine public involvement in decision making is so important.

“There is a clear desire for more locally-led decisions across Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. This has been demonstrated to me in recent weeks following various meetings with Thurso, Assynt and Kyle of Sutherland Development Trusts.

“We have some quite tricky nuanced discussions to have across the constituency on issues like managing second home ownership, for instance. We need to have conversations around how we balance the needs of communities with tourism and the local economy.

“We know that one size doesn’t fit all, so in conducting local citizens assemblies we can gauge the will of the community and come up with local solutions to influence and inform decision-making.

“We need to try and navigate a way through the complex issues which are impacting our communities. I want to see communities empowered, I don’t want them to feel distant from decision-making.

“Citizens' assemblies are a great way of improving local democracy and coming up with tailor made solutions.”

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