Collective thinking about the future? A study of three citizens’ juries on wind farms in Scotland

Elstub, Stephen and Aitken, Mhairi and Escobar, Oliver and Thompson, Andrew and Roberts, Jennifer (2014) Collective thinking about the future? A study of three citizens’ juries on wind farms in Scotland. In: ECPR annual meeting, 2014-09-03.

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    Abstract

    Mini-publics are the most lauded device for institutionalising deliberative democracy, and citizens’ juries have been the most used type. They are seen as an opportunity for citizens to deliberate on important and contentious issues, and to revise their preferences in light of deliberation. This paper analyses three Citizens’ juries conducted in different locations in Scotland on the contested topic of onshore wind farms. The locations were selected according to proximity to windfarms, and the three juries were held successively from September 2013 to February 2014. Although part of a research project, the citizens’ juries were nonetheless designed to inform Scottish policy debate about both wind farm development and public involvement in decision making on this topic. Over two days, the jurors addressed, together, the following question: ‘What should be the key principles for deciding about wind farm development, and why?’ Accordingly, the jurors were invited to engage with long-term considerations regarding policy, energy generation and climate change. Using findings from mixed methods research, this paper reflects on the extent to which the citizens’ juries were ‘thinking about the future’, and the potential of democratic innovations to counter short-term thinking in policy and decision-making.