Citizens’ juries on wind farm development in Scotland : interim report

Roberts, Jen and Escobar, Oliver (2014) Citizens’ juries on wind farm development in Scotland : interim report. Climate Exchange. (

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Between October 2013 and February 2014 three groups of 15-18 people spent two Saturdays together listening to speakers before being asked to discuss, as a group, the question: 'There are strong views on wind farms in Scotland, with some people being strongly opposed, others being strongly in favour and a range of opinions in between. What should be the key principles for deciding about wind farm development, and why?' The conversations were run using a format known as a ‘citizens’ jury’. This enables a diverse group of people to discuss an issue with the help of experts presenting a range of evidence and arguments in a calm atmosphere, and gives the group time to reflect on the issues raised. The jurors were randomly selected by an independent research recruitment company, and involved a cross-section of society in terms of demographics. Various methods were used to reduce self-selection bias. For example, participants did not know the specific topic for the conversations before gathering for the first jury day. Juries were held in three locations: Aberfeldy, which is close to an existing wind farm; Helensburgh, close to a proposed wind farm; and Coldstream, which has no existing or proposed major wind farms nearby. Each jury met twice, with a two or three week break between the first and second jury days. Key points in this interim report are: - The project successfully recruited a group of citizens for the juries that was diverse in both demographics and attitudes. - Each jury had 15 – 18 jurors, totalling 49 across all juries. Juror attendance was excellent, with only 2 jurors not completing the process due to relocation and ill health. - Each jury agreed a set of 10 – 15 principles about wind farm development in Scotland. These statements were prioritised to reflect what matters most to them. - The jurors found the process an enjoyable and stimulating experience. 88% chose to use the time between the jury days to learn more about the topic. Almost all the jurors said they would take part in a similar process again. - Jurors said that the process had given them a broader view on the issue and provided them with ideas on how to conduct difficult discussions in other settings, e.g. at work. - The majority of the jurors thought the citizens’ jury format is ‘a good way to find out how citizens feel about issues that affect them’ and agreed that it should be used to guide decisions ‘about issues that affect communities’. - The project generated a vast amount of rich, qualitative and quantitative information. The research team is currently analysing these data to answer a wide range of research questions –e.g. how deliberative processes like citizens’ juries affect knowledge, opinion and understanding of a complex subject. We will publish a final research report in May 2015.