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Scottish Civic Forum –
an open, transparent and non-coercive vehicle for popular colloquium

George Clark (August 2000) clark@srds.co.uk
for acknowledgments click HERE

A concept paper to spark discussion

A Civic Forum must allow for:

bulletcolloquia (talking together)
bulletcomplete autonomy and independence
bulletfull responsibility to individuals and groups
bulletfree agreement between those who think it useful to come together for co-operative action for common aims

Participants must accept a moral duty to fulfil their pledges and to take no action in the name of the Forum which is contrary to its accepted programme.

On such a basis practical structures and suitable instruments can be introduced to give real life to the organisation eg groups, federation of groups, federations of federations, meetings, colloquia, correspondence committees and so on. This must be done freely so as not to restrict the thought and the initiative of individual members but rather to give greater scope to efforts which, in isolation, would be impossible or ineffective.

In such an arrangement a Civic Forum with colloquia, in spite of problems suffered as a ‘representative’ body, can be free from ‘authoritarianism’ because it does not legislate and does not impose its deliberations on others. It serves to:

bulletmaintain and increase personal contacts amongst the most active members
bulletsummarize and encourage programmatic studies on the ways and means for action
bulletacquaint everybody with the situation in the regions and the kind of action most urgently needed
bulletsummarize the various currents of opinion at the time and prepare some kind of statistics therefrom

Decisions of the Forum are not binding but are simply suggestions, advice and proposals submitted to all concerned; and they do not become binding and executive except for those who accept them and for as long as they accept them.

Such administrative staff as are nominated have no directive powers and do not take initiatives except for those specifically solicited for and approved; and they have no authority to impose their own views. They publish the resolutions of the Forum and the opinions and proposals communicated to them by groups and individuals; and they act for those who want to make use of them, to facilitate relations between groups, and co-operation between those who are in agreement on various initiatives. Each member of the Forum is free to correspond directly with any other member, or to make use of committees nominated by specific groupings.

Within the Civic Forum network individual members can express any opinion and use any tactic which does not contradict the accepted principles and does not interfere with the activities of others.

The Forum as a whole, and sub groupings within it, should last only as long as the reasons for union are superior to those for dissension: otherwise it should disband and make way for other, more homogeneous groupings. The duration of the organisation must be the result of the affinity of its members and of the adaptability of its constitution to continually changing circumstances. When it can no longer serve a useful purpose it should die.

It might be argued that the SCF does not exist to emancipate the people but rather to provide a means whereby the people might emancipate themselves. The SCF wants a new way of life (a new Scottish Democracy?) to emerge from the body of the people, a way of life which corresponds to the state of their development and which advances as they advance. What matters is that all interests and opinions should find their expression in a conscious organisation and should influence communal life in proportion to their agreed importance.


The author confesses to massive plagiarism in the production of this paper which is an edited version of a reasonably classic political tract. Some vocabulary has been altered and the original author is not named here as his political affiliations might dissuade some people from even bothering to consider the ideas. If you do not recognize the thought pattern email for details!



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