Those with genuine concerns about poverty, health care, race and good governance were dismissed as the enemy and attacked relentlessly by those whose loyalty to the project ‘transcended’ everything else. Social media became a warzone of poisonous exchanges organised by well-funded groups. It will take a huge effort to heal these divisions. We cannot ignore these lessons.
Scotland is deeply divided. If you support one side of the constitutional debate, then you leave yourself open to attack, ridicule and abuse from the other.
Entrenched views and an unwillingness to even consider anyone else’s viewpoint has polarised politics with every issue a proxy for the constitutional question. Forget rational appraisal of government decisions – everything is a test of loyalty to the cause.
This is a dangerous state of affairs. There has to be another way. The world I want to see is based on three fundamental questions:
What type of society do we want to create? At which level should powers sit to create it? And how do we deliver it?
I want a society that has social justice at its core. One that will put an end to child poverty and educational inequality, create full employment and enshrine civil and human rights in a new constitution.
I start from the principle that we should devolve all powers to the lowest possible level unless there is an overwhelming reason not to. For example, pensions and border issues would be retained at the UK level so we would benefit from a pension pot of 60 million citizens, as opposed to five million, and avoid internal border controls on our small island.
It would see specific policy areas operating within a UK framework but with scope for a degree of difference. We could then work through all policy areas to establish at which level we gain maximum advantage.
Maximising devolution should not stop at Holyrood, we need power devolved to councils, workplaces and communities.
If another referendum is the will of the people then so be it, but if there is to be one then the electorate must have an informed choice and not be made to vote for either the unacceptable status quo of Johnson or the undesirable independence of the SNP’s Growth Commission. We have to expand the options to avoid forcing people into one of two unpalatable positions. Not to do so is anti-democratic and wrong. Another world is not just possible, it is essential.
‘Devo Max’ should be based on democratic, cooperative coexistence with our neighbours, rejecting the arrogance of a UK government that ignores demands for further devolution and the centralising tendencies the Scottish government. It provides credible answers to the questions nationalists and unionists can’t address about:
currency, interest rates and reserves; retaining the Barnett formula; pensions; ending the drug-deaths crisis; dispute resolution and joint decision-making; the future of financial services jobs; avoiding the cost of new passports, borders and embassies; our armed forces; and how we avoid the start-up costs of a new state.
Devo max can answer these questions. The time for a third option has come. We must now articulate it to the Scottish people.