Letter in the Salisbury Journal

It seems that the proposal to build some kind of bypass or tunnel around or under the Stonehenge monument has been going on since time began.  Governments come and governments go; wars come and wars go; ministers come and ministers go and still the thing does not happen.

One factor is that whatever is proposed, there will be objections.  Almost certainly, there is no perfect solution but then, almost any solution would be better than the mess we have now next to one of the nation’s most precious monuments.

A letter from Mark Potts in today’s Journal is of interest therefore:

Instead of a referendum on the Stonehenge Tunnel, there ought to be a Citizens Assembly on the issue. The problem with referenda, as we saw with the Brexit referendum, is that he are subject to manipulation by the media and other influencers.

They can only ask a simple question e.g. Do you or don’t you support …?

They do not allow for exploration of other options.  Also the outcome of a referendum is polarising as the losing side do not feel that their voices have been heard.

Many voters in a referendum do not have the opportunity or inclination to study the evidence in order to make an informed decision.

For these reasons, it would be far better to have a Citizens Assembly to deliberate on the issue.  A representative  sample of citizens from the area would be chosen randomly to hear the evidence  from experts, given time to discuss and deliberate on it and be guided by the trained facilitators to come up with a set of recommendations for how to proceed.

This allows the outcome to be informed by evidence and the participants can suggest other options.  The recommendations can go to the decision making body.

This is a far more unfiying approach.  Citizens Assemblies are increasingly being used as a means of engaging citizens in the democratic process.  Salisbury Journal, 21 January 2021.

Salisbury Democracy Alliance has proposed Citizens’ Assemblies as a process for these sorts of decisions to be made.  Mark Potts is chair of SDA.