People came out to vote in unprecedented numbers to decide on Scotland’s future. In some districts, turnout topped 90 per cent. Many who hadn’t taken part in any election for years felt energised and engaged.
The result confirmed Scotland’s place in the UK, but some of the areas with the deepest connection to the Labour movement voted Yes. In Glasgow, every single constituency produced a majority for an independent Scotland.
At its simplest, those people who looked out their windows and didn’t like what they saw voted Yes. Those 1.6 million votes should be heard as a deafening call for change in the way that politics is done in Scotland.
When the people shouting loudest are those who have traditionally looked to Labour to speak for them, the party must respond.
This matters to me because the Labour Party has been one of the longest and most important relationships in my life.
As a boy, my brother and I were packed off every summer to our grandparents in Kilmarnock. We spent our days playing football in the grounds of the Grange Academy. In the evenings my grandpa would talk about politics.
He described to me how the 1945 Labour Government was the best the country had ever had and spoke about Nye Bevan, the Welsh coal miner who founded the NHS, as if he had known him personally.
When I went up to Glasgow University, to study history, I signed up to join the Labour Club during Freshers’ Week. My next four years were spent marching against fascism and campaigning for student grants.
Twenty years on, I am a bit older and wiser but Labour is still my party.
That’s why I got involved with Labour for Scotland’s initiative to hold an open meeting at Strathclyde University, on October 18th, at which Labour members and supporters can discuss what happens next.
I believe that Labour’s distinctive contribution to the political debate in Scotland must be as a force for socialist and progressive policies.
Now that the referendum is over, we should admit that spending the past two years running a joint campaign with the Conservatives has done real damage to Labour’s reputation in its heartlands.
You can’t talk credibly about solidarity when you are sharing a platform with the people responsible for the Bedroom Tax. The values that motivate your politics are a far more important dividing line than whether you are Yes or No.
It is time to surprise people with imagination and ambition. Labour needs to set out a vision for how home rule in the 21st century will shift power, not just across borders, but from the elites into the hands of working people.
A more democratic Scotland must be a way of achieving a more equal Scotland.
I would like to see Labour’s next manifesto containing commitments to make the minimum wage in Scotland a living wage, to give communities a far greater say over issues that affect them, such as school closures, and to put railways into public ownership.
But this is just my view. The most important thing is that we start a conversation from the grassroots upwards.
This debate should include how we democratise the Labour Party itself. For example, is there a case for directly electing members of the Shadow Cabinet at Holyrood? This would make party spokespersons far more accountable for policy decisions.
Labour for Scotland is not offering a plan, or a blueprint, about how Labour should respond to the referendum, but we want to talk. Come along on Saturday and tell us what you think.