As a politically active individual and an elections geek you’d think I would be excited beyond reason about the independence referendum. In actual fact, I have found the debate to be depressingly repetitive, providing few answers and repeating political dogma. I wish it would end.
But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is the exceptional involvement of Scotland’s citizens in this debate. There seems to be a higher level of understanding of how much politics impacts upon our everyday lives, and a real appreciation of how important it is for citizens to question policy decisions and to challenge what we are told is true or false.
As advocates of voting, ERS continually try to explain how everyday acts are influenced by political decisions. The reality of this connection is now ever present in Scottish politics.
This welcome realisation is undoubtedly due to the intimate connection citizens of Scotland feel between their vote and the possible result of the independence referendum.
Why don’t voters routinely feel this connection? Clearly this vote is more important than any normal election. But is there more to it than that?
Suddenly, Scottish voters are making the connection between policy decisions, political representation and their daily lives. And what’s really interesting is these voters want more local control. They are as concerned with the Scottish Government’s centralising agenda as they are with decisions made at Westminster that have no relevance to them.
And this is the opportunity the Scottish independence referendum offers, for all of the UK, not just for Scotland.
Decisions made by the local community are most likely to reflect the concerns of that local community. Participatory budgeting in Porte Alegre has transformed that Brazilian community. Communities in Italy, France and Spain whose municipal authorities have supported and funded deliberative and participative decision making are seeing returns in increased voter turnout and, more importantly, better and more efficient decision making.
Whether Scotland votes No or Yes to independence in less than two weeks’ time, we have to capture this enthusiasm for politics, discussion, engagement, understanding and collaboration. If Scotland is to be a truly better nation after this vote, we must create a way for citizen engagement to become the norm. If we lose the networks this campaign has established we will have failed our citizens. If we lose the enthusiasm this debate has engendered we will have failed democracy.
So this is a call to arms. Whether you are No or whether you are Yes, and even you are still a bit Mibbe, let’s make Scotland post-referendum an exciting, transformational, participatory democracy. ERS Scotland has a few ideas, but we want to hear yours. How do we keep this going? How do we ensure Scotland reflects our new found knowledge and enthusiasm, independent or not?