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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Referendum sorted - what next?

Today's news that the Scottish and UK governments have done a deal over the s30 order means that the debate can move on from the procedural to the substantive issues of constitutional change.

While I would have liked the opportunity to work towards a second question, no one was under any illusion how difficult it was going to be work up a consensus option. A vote for 16 and 17 year olds is clearly right as they will have to live with the decision longer than the rest of us. Anyone who has canvassed on the doorstep knows that age does not define political awareness. The pivotal role for the Electoral Commission puts a strong independent oversight on the whole process.

For those in the Better Together campaign a single question is welcome as they view this as a straightforward argument between independence, or separation as they put it, and what?

For some in the Better Together campaign it is primarily the status quo as defined by the latest Scotland Act. For others, who support greater devolution, the challenge is to define a 'no' vote as a vote for a different constitutional settlement for Scotland. One advantage of the lengthy run in to the referendum is that it gives time to develop different approaches for Scotland. Independence won’t be defined until the Scottish Government publishes its White Paper in November 2013. The Liberal Democrats plan to publish their ideas soon and Scottish Labour's Devolution Commission will present an interim report to next April's party conference.

Other groups have an important role to play in developing these options. It is particularly important to develop approaches that challenge the neo-liberal consensus that drives so much economic policy in Scotland and the UK. The RedPaper Collective seeks to do just that and expect more from us in the coming months.
The key challenge is to move on from the mechanisms of independence or devolution and onto the purpose of constitutional change. The STUC have been doing this through the A Just Scotland initiative and UNISON, has recently agreed its For a Fairer Scotland vision following a consultation. These initiatives start a dialogue on what sort of Scotland we want and then measure the constitutional offerings against that vision.

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