Scotland has voted by a margin of 45% to 55% to reject the Independence Referendum. In a blog marking the result, Scottish Green Party's have offered thanks to those who shared the journey with them.
The result is close but clear, and naturally we accept the decision the people of Scotland have made. In the Green Yes campaign we sought to give a distinctive vision of Scotland as a beacon of social, economic and environmental progress. I argued that Scottish independence was far more likely to deliver that vision than the backward-looking and increasingly broken British state centred on Westminster.
Many people share that vision, and are angry about the broken political system but are clearly not yet ready to set it aside and build a new one.
Our job, in Green Yes then, was to make this a campaign of hope and aspiration – not without risk and uncertainty, of course – but where we were driven by our ambitions for a fairer, greener country. I believe we did that – as did many of the people in the Yes movement; tens of thousands of them, many of whom had never engaged with politics before. Scotland is immensely the richer for that.
All those people who have been energised in that way are not going to be content with a return to business as usual. We can be immensely proud of the way the Yes campaign has forced the UK Government and the UK parties, belatedly and confusedly, to begin to acknowledge the failings of the centralised British state, not only as to what powers Scotland has, but how the UK itself forms its relationship with the people and communities it is supposed to serve.
So where does that leave Scotland and the Scottish Greens? The party has seen a big boost to our membership levels, and we’ve gained new supporters up and down the country. More important than that, we’re clearer than ever before about our purpose as a party: the transition to a sustainable economy and a fair society has never been more urgent.
As regards the handing to Scotland of new powers, this can’t be allowed to become just another stitched-up deal between the leaders of the three UK parties. Genuine public engagement is critical if they want to earn the trust of Scotland, not just the 55 per cent who voted No. I, and the Scottish Greens, will work constructively over the months ahead if others are able to do the same.
But let’s be clear; the phrase “more powers” is not a simple one. Scotland needs the ability to set its own course, not just the responsibility to manage Westminster’s austerity on its behalf. And beyond Scotland, a recognition is long overdue that there is something rotten in the state of Britain itself: unelected lawmakers; an unrepresentative voting system; the post-imperial addiction to weapons of mass destruction as a symbol of virility; the corporate capture of the political and media landscape. Reform in those areas matters throughout these islands, and it will need a grassroots movement every bit as creative and inclusive as the Yes movement has become.
And here in Scotland we must have real progress: no more timid inching forward while retaining real power in London.
So no more foisting on Scotland punitive welfare attacks on council tenants and disabled people: Scotland must be able to make welfare choices which cherish dignity.
No more watching helplessly as our people bob like corks on the latest wave of boom and bust economics: Scotland must have the real fiscal and economic levers to create jobs and prosperity in a modern green economy.
No more taking a back seat as the imperative of a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren is squandered: on transport, energy and land Scotland needs to have powers to set our own course to that future.
But, if we have learned anything over the last two years, it is also about the need to prise power away from political and corporate elites; to let the energy and talents of the grassroots movement be the driver of future change, not whatever crumbs fall from the Westminster table.
So that work starts now. In three weeks the Greens hold our annual conference in Edinburgh. Our aim there and in the weeks and months after, is building a greener and fairer Scotland now. Not in the future. Now. We have drawn speakers from charities, community organisations, small businesses, trade unions, local authorities, churches and other political parties all of whom, I believe, share a common hunger for a better Scotland. They are the Scotland-shapers, not the day-tripper politicians or the boardroom elites.
We will use that to widen our movement for change. I’m asking you to join us in doing that: to share your experience, insight, skills and aspirations. Scotland has changed utterly. And it remains a unique time in Scotland’s history.
Let’s seize that opportunity together.