After the vote, we need a clear roadmap

The most important thing now is for everyone to work out what is next for Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The most important thing now is for everyone to work out what is next for Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Conference will consider what’s next for Scotland, says Alistair Morris

After the intense final days of the independence referendum campaign, Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Last Thursday’s vote followed a highly passionate and lengthy campaign, with strong views and emotions expressed on both sides. Despite that, there is widespread agreement that the referendum has been a triumph of democracy, with thousands of people voting for the first time.

The most important thing now is for everyone to come together and respect the will of the people to work out what is next for Scotland.

The Law Society will offer one of the first opportunities to consider what Thursday’s historic vote will bring at its post-referendum conference “The People’s Verdict – so what now?” on 3 and 4 October.

First Minister Alex Salmond MSP and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael MP are set to be among the speakers to consider this historic result and look at the implications for our economy, our society and Scotland’s place in the world. It will also consider how the country can come together after a difficult three-year campaign.

The society has been a leading and non-partisan voice in the debate on Scotland’s future, and I am proud that our conference will provide the first major opportunity for people to come together and answer the question – so what now?

During the referendum campaign, we heard repeated assurances that a No vote was not a vote for the status quo. The three main UK parties signed a commitment to devolve further powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. We now need a clear roadmap, both for reaching a consensus and for the delivery of any new powers. That process must reach out beyond the political parties and involve those from across civic Scotland. We need the broadest possible consultation and engagement if we are to ensure any new constitutional settlement is to stand the test of time.

The legal profession has a huge breadth of knowledge and expertise. That ability and negotiating capacity has been used extensively over the last three years and will be critical over these coming months. Scotland’s solicitors, working in-house and in law firms, are well placed to advise government, businesses and citizens, here and abroad, on the implications of this referendum result.

For our part, the Law Society worked closely with government and across the political parties when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 and when further powers were devolved. We stand ready once more and offer our assistance to the country as it moves on from this referendum and considers the next steps on its constitutional journey.

Major change is ahead, but just as importantly we have to assure the world that Scotland is open for business. In addition to examining Scotland’s constitutional future in the wake of the referendum, the two-day conference will run business-focused sessions.

We are very pleased to welcome key speaker Ken Segall, who worked for 12 years as creative director at Apple. I have no doubt that our delegates will be extremely interested in hearing what he has to say when he presents the idea that simplicity is the most powerful force in business. In the other keynote session on the second day of the conference, Professor Stephen Mayson, of the University of Law and University College London, will highlight some of the difficult decisions that law firms and legal departments avoid – and the consequences of doing so. There will also be sessions examining what will give Scotland a digital edge, how to encourage growth during recession and preparing your business for change following last week’s vote.

Other speakers at the two-day conference, to be hosted by broadcaster and journalist Sarah Smith, will include Professor Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory at Edinburgh University, Christine O’Neill, constitutional law expert and chairman of law firm Brodies, Lynda Towers, solicitor to the Scottish Parliament, Matthew Shaddick from Ladbrokes and writer and commentator Gerry Hassan.

Each of the speakers will cover a range of topics including looking at the factors that led to the final vote, Scotland’s place in the world as a result, lessons to be learned and how to heal any wounds incurred from a long and passionate campaign. Scottish party leaders Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie will also be part of a panel session to discuss the future of politics in Scotland.

• Alistair Morris is president of the Law Society of Scotland


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