Reflecting on the referendum result, historians might conclude it remarkable that 45% of Scots felt strongly enough to vote “yes” in the face of some considerable opposition. This included the entire Westminster establishment, the media, the banks, the UK oil industry, retailers like Asda and John Lewis, a host of other major corporations, a plethora of “celebrities” and even the US government and the Pope.
But from where I was sitting in the English Midlands (as opposed to middle England), it was the level of political engagement, and the involvement of so many young voters in particular that really stood out, even if it wasn’t always pretty ( e.g. Salmond v Darling debates).
Indeed, what really struck me, if the Yes supporters I follow on Twitter were anything to go by, was that for many, choosing Yes was not a vote for nationalism, but rather a vote for autonomy and change – for a break from the failures of Westminster.
In the face of what many Yes supporters may see as a self-serving coalition government, hell bent on promoting austerity, out of touch with ordinary people, and elected by an unfair electoral system, I felt slightly envious that I wasn’t getting a vote myself.
Of course part of the deal, now the result is known, is for Westminster to deliver further devolved powers to Scotland. But Cameron has also been forced to recognise that change can not simply stop at the border. So today he promised a devolution revolution across Great Britain. But quite what he has in mind is not clear. Nor is it clear what Labour or the Lib Dems are proposing. So far we have just had vague statements and a few ideas bounced around by pundits on the BBC. But that, I fear, is a real problem…because it shouldn’t be what the Westminster politicians want.
Some half-baked plan to give votes on English issues to only English MPs isn’t a devolution revolution, its a tactical move to keep the Tory backbench’s happy. It’s not devolving anything, but simply leaving the power in the hands of the Westminster elite.
No, instead we should be looking at wholesale constitutional change, bringing in a system that is more engaging, more democratic, and more inclusive. The Scottish referendum has led the way by reaching out to so many and involving a new generation in political debate. We therefore have a great opportunity to take the initiative and build something new. We need ideas to come from the grassroots as well as the establishment. So I was impressed when I heard that Caroline Lucas MP has already called for a People’s Constitutional Convention. It’s a good place to start; and we should be backing her call.