YAS urges Scotland’s policymakers to sign up to Charter for Responsible Debate


As Scottish Parliament returns from summer recess, we are urging Scotland’s politicians and other members of civil society to sign-up to our new Charter for Responsible Debate.

Already, more than 60 individuals involved in public and academic sectors in Scotland have pledged to promote responsible debate, including Scottish Labour Party leader Anas Sarwar and Willie Rennie, former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

In addition to the Charter, we have also published a full report of this project, which includes reflective essays on the principles of public debate and a set of “boardroom, classroom and living room” exercises to help people try out the charter.  We worked with a wide range of civil society partners to develop this charter, and from these discussions, identified three themes: debate should be informed, respectful and inclusive.

We believe that the principles of the charter apply in public settings, such as parliaments and media, but also in discussions amongst family members, in schools, at workplaces, as part of community organisations, and online.

Today, we published an open letter to all MSPs asking them to lead by example and sign up to the charter.

YAS Responsible Debate project leads: (l to r) Matthew Chrisman, Peter McColl, John O’Connor, and Alice König.

Peter McColl, YAS spokesperson for the Charter for Responsible Debate said:

“Responsible debate is critically important for a progressive society.  We must be open to differences of opinion, to listening to alternative views and ensuring a range of voices and contributions are heard, not just the loudest.

“We have become too comfortable with political debate that is defined by conflict and an ‘us versus them’ mentality.  Differences of opinion are met with scorn and we’re all familiar with how online discussions on social media and other online platforms can descend into negative territory.  The result is we get nowhere fast and important topics and decisions are potentially not given the attention and focus they deserve.

“We believe positive and constructive debate is possible by committing to the key principles in this new charter.  We want to change the tone of political and public debate on all topics and ensure everyone can contribute in a meaningful way and better-informed decisions are made with understanding among all those involved.”

Sign up to the Charter

Read the Report