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Reflections on the Scottish vote

Huw Evans blogSeventeen years ago this very day, I witnessed at first hand how precarious and imperfect the evolution of our democratic structures can be. As a campaign aide in the Welsh devolution vote following the 1997 election, I shared a room at the overnight count in Cardiff with the Secretary of State for Wales and other party leaders as county after county rejected the idea of a Welsh Assembly to bring power closer to the people. As despair and defeat hung in the air, all seemed lost until, incredibly, the last declaration of the night from Camarthenshire brought a much higher than expected 'Yes' vote which delivered a wafer thin national majority of 6,721 for devolution.

I take this trip down memory lane for one purpose only; to make the point that the evolution of a modernised political framework for the United Kingdom has long been an imperfect process, not a single event. Go back just over a century and Westminster was paralysed over the question of Home Rule for Ireland. The intense discussions on the future shape of our democracy that will follow this morning's 'No" vote in Scotland are a continuum of the evolution of the Union, not just a reaction to the dynamics of the last few weeks of the campaign.

Where this ends up matters for all of us who care about good public policy, irrespective of political leaning. As we all live more connected lives than ever before, the disconnection with the politicians who lead us, has grown. This is a perverse trend that has to stop if we are to continue to have a democracy which supports unity, not fragmentation.

What does this mean in practice? Undoubtedly a new constitutional settlement will emerge from this result, either by increments or grand design. But structures only work if they deliver good public policy and leadership that people can engage with and respect in equal measure. This is not impossible; it has happened in Wales where support for devolution has grown since that nail-biting night in September 1997. The exact framework of the new settlement is rightly a matter for elected political leaders to decide but all of us who engage with public policy have a duty to reflect and act in ways that help strengthen our democracy and encourage wider engagement. This means doing our bit to tackle cynical attitudes to business and politics and playing a proactive part in making the continued evolution of the United Kingdom the basis for a prosperous and healthy environment for all.


Last updated 29/06/2016