ON 18 September I was in Livingston helping to “knock up” the Yes vote. In elections, this effort to persuade reluctant voters to go to the polling station is essential. On referendum day it wasn’t needed. Everyone had either already voted or was just about to. The record turnout marked a change in Scottish politics. At last, people had something worth voting for.
After the result was known, disappointed Yes voters did something even more exceptional. They joined pro-independence parties in their thousands, signalling a willingness – indeed an urgent need – to keep their engagement with politics alive.
If you watched the sparsely attended Commons devolution debate last Monday, you will have learned little of this. A few members briefly paid tribute to the turnout, before moving on to the question of English votes for English laws. No one was asking themselves why so many people had felt newly inspired.
I am standing for the depute leader of the SNP because I recognise the change that has taken place in Scotland. For two years, the old politics have been eclipsed by people who were willing to organise themselves, fund themselves, and take the initiative themselves. When Blair Jenkins said that the Yes campaign had moved beyond his control, he recognised that the power to change things had returned to the people.
We in the SNP would be letting these newly inspired people down if we allowed that energy to die. The SNP needs radical change. That is why I am calling for a true equality of membership and decision-making, with no special privileges just because someone happens to be elected to parliament. That is why I am calling for the SNP to reach out to the wider Yes campaign and involve people who belong to other pro-independence parties, or none. That is why I have pledged to continue the fight for independence. I do not believe our tens of thousands of new members joined us because they wanted Scotland’s powers shared around in an auction by men in suits.
I recognise that independence will not happen overnight. We had our chance and did not take it. But there will be a next time and we must be ready. Meanwhile, I believe we should do what we can to make Scotland a better place. To that end, I want to see our local branches, which are the heart of our policy-making, embedded in every community in Scotland, telling us what needs to happen, and having the power to make it happen.
I want to see women at the heart of our movement. We were told during the referendum campaign that women were less interested, were prominent among the “Don’t knows”, and of course (infamously) were only interested in preparing cereal for their families. I have seldom felt more insulted than by that insidious piece of propaganda.
It is a sad fact that women remain under-represented in the institutions and organisations that we trust to run our country. This must change. I have given my support to the Women 50:50 campaign, an EU-wide drive to unlock the talents of women which Scotland badly needs. An SNP in which I am depute leader will not allow women to be left behind.
Angela Constance MSP is Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment