What do we want? Independence was partly about democracy and self-respect, but it was also about building a better, fairer Scotland, that gave equal opportunity to our young, and looked after our vulnerable. We lost the referendum, but we must not lose our focus on building a better future. We must use the current powers of the Scottish Parliament to more effectively reduce poverty and inequality. Amongst other things we should also pursue serious land reform and give renewed focus to community owned renewable energy. We must also engage in the discussion on further powers, and press constructively for whatever we can use to start to build the better Scotland that is our purpose.
We must avoid the temptation to disengage and sit back ready to criticise the failings of the unionist parties. We should make common cause with those who are genuine in support of serious autonomy, federalism or devo-max. In particular we need to engage with a broader civil society, whether or not they supported independence. We need to be clear that “further powers,” need to be about job creation, poverty reduction, child care, welfare, health, education, renewable energy, pensions and a living wage, not some abstract constitutional conundrum or the mythical “vow.” Lets start from the point of view that all Scottish taxes should go to the Scottish Government who should pay an agreed proportion of the UK Government budget for Foreign Affairs, defence etc.
Our aim needs to be the 75% that support most decisions about Scotland’s future being made in Scotland. In order to build that broader coalition we need to stay focused on purpose, but we also need to sustain a positive engagement with the process. If we are perceived to be half-hearted, or worse still, actively planning for failure, we will rightly be rejected. Telling people they have been tricked is not smart politics. Let others talk about the Labour Party, they will either engage in serious change or they will reap what they have sown, but talking about inflicting revenge upon their more dishonest representatives just alienates ordinary people. We need to keep a strategic rather than tactical focus.
And some of the strategic questions are around how we sustain the engagement of those who have not voted before. How do we remake politics so that more women and more folk from outside the elite have an active role. Decentralisation within Scotland should be part of this. Finding ways to get beyond defensive politician-speak and open up genuine, open consultation should be another.
David Greig wrote an excellent piece on this where he reclaimed the mantra about working, “as if you were in the early days of a better nation.” We also need to start showing more respect for those who voted No. When the Scottish Parliament was created there was much talk about a new kind of politics. We need to reclaim that idea too, and take the risk of opening our hearts and daring to hope again. No doubt some will repay us with tribalism, cynicism and point scoring, but we are better than that, aren’t we?