THE BLOG

Scottish Referendum Has to Bring Real Change Across the UK

19/09/2014 11:02 BST | Updated 18/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Today, we know the result of the Scottish referendum, but what we don't yet know is the outcome.

David Cameron's words at Downing Street this morning were a promise of constitutional change for not just Scotland but the rest of the UK, but after nearly 100 years without significant political reform in Westminster, that's something we've cause to be sceptical about his ability or desire to deliver.

Most of those who voted "No" did so after the Home Rule vow from UK political leaders. Forty-five percent of voters opted for independence.

Real constitutional change is essential - and the question of how that can be achieved by our discredited political class with their disastrous track record on delivering on their promises (think House of Lords reform for starters) needs to be addressed quickly. Green MP Caroline Lucas is leading on that.

But there's a couple of conclusions that can already be drawn, lessons to be learnt.

The Scottish people set a new standard for a political debate. The level of engagement was unprecedented in modern times, the level of thought and involvement from both political activists and those who've never even voted before, with many in between, was revelatory: the turnout of 85% is only a final sign of the way in which politics became a popular activity.

We have to strive for the same around the rest of the UK, and to keep this up in Scotland. Politics should be something everyone does, not something that is done to everyone.

Also clear is that the case for votes at 16 is now definitively made: the articulate, thoughtful, engaged 16 and 17-year-olds we heard in the media, that campaigners met around Scotland, were compelling, and the argument that they'll have to live in the world being made now is irresistible. This must be part of our constitutional reforms.

Another obvious conclusion for those watching closely is that the coverage of the campaign in our UK media wasn't the whole story. On my visit to Edinburgh, reading alternative media and hearing from Scottish campaigners, it was clear that the Salmond versus Darling narrative in no way reflected what was really happening on the ground.

I must congratulate the Scottish Green Party on a great, positive campaign of hope, an approach they shared with the Radical Yes campaign and many grassroots alliances, from Women for Independence to Carers for Yes.

They were proposing building a different kind of society, one in which everyone has access to the resources for a decent quality of life - jobs that workers can build a life on, adequate benefits given ungrudgingly, affordable housing - built on a different kind of economy: small businesses and cooperatives, renewable energy in community ownership, strong local economies, finance serving the real economy rather than threatening it.

Arrayed against them were the forces of the establishment; the alliance of Tory and Labour, big business and finance and rightwing media tycoons was telling. It ran a campaign strongly based on fear: claims of threats to jobs, apparent currency risk, ridiculous claims about the future of Scottish industry.

What never really got any traction in that debate - in part because many "yes" campaigners rightly wanted to focus on hope not fear - was that economic risk is something we are all living with every day in an economy where the finance sector is way too large and still fraud-ridden and speculation-dominated. There would have been risks in independence, but also opportunities to cut those risks in an independent state.

That's history now: what we need to do is use this as an impetus for real change across the UK, real economic change, real constitutional change, real societal change.

Many campaigners today will be feeling tired and disappointed. That's perfectly understandable and fair, and they deserve a rest.

But it is up to all of us to carry on the flag of hope of a fair, more secure society for all across the whole of the UK. A new constitutional settlement is part of that. The prospect of hope for a better future from radical change in our approach to the economy and environment is another critical ingredient.