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Promises of further powers must be fulfilled

As Scotland shakes herself off after the Referendum, Alyn considers the options. Perhaps a new Yes coalition can hold MPs to their promises.  


Published in The Sunday Herald on 21st September 2014.

This is not over.

I'm proud of Scotland. I'm proud to be a member of the SNP, the party that created the conditions for such a joyous, rumbustious carnival of democracy. We did not get the result we wanted, but we still achieved an amazing result. I was awestruck to see so many people empowered, often for the first time. Suddenly, democracy mattered. We did that.

I have been inspired to serve alongside people of all political persuasions and none, and I thank each and every one. But now, we must ensure that energy and engagement does not evaporate, and business as usual is no more.

Nor should it be: 45% of Scots voted for independence. I hoped for a majority, at times it felt within reach. We dared to dream. There's been no shortage of tears at Smith Towers, I don't mind admitting. I had a postal vote, but it took about four tries to actually complete it. Holding it in my hands brought me to tears every time, thinking of those who never had that privilege. This was an incredible thing to be part of, an example to the world.

The massed might of the UK financial, political and media establishment quaked at what we might have been about to do, while the world's media watched. I think a lot of Scots enjoyed that power, and enjoyed the attention. Who's too poor and too wee now?

We had a vote, we all pledged to respect it, and we do. Despite disgraceful attempts by some to misrepresent it, it was an energising, spirited, overwhelmingly good-natured debate about who makes decisions for us in our interconnected world, and who they should be accountable to. Scotland walks taller today; this debate has changed us, and we now have a duty to make sure it changes politics too.

And Scotland voted for change. A huge segment of our neighbours voted for independence and, crucially, the No voters did not endorse the status quo. They endorsed an explicit promise of change, albeit with achingly few details as to what that change will be or how it will be achieved.

Every, single unionist party promised more powers - that cannot be denied. There is also a timetable that has already slipped. The Yes proposition was tested to destruction while the Mystery Box Vow from the No parties was not scrutinised at all. They had to use "vow" because "promise" and "pledge" are somewhat devalued currency. It remains to be seen if vows are any more serious.

Handily, we have an opportunity to keep Scotland front and centre of Westminster's radar. The Westminster election in 2015 is now relevant, where some of us hoped it would not be. So be it. Yes Scotland is now no more, so I think it falls to the SNP to ensure resilience of the Yes movement.

How about an Alliance, a Collective, standing for Scotland at the Westminster elections? Mobilise the Yes vote behind a single Yes candidate and we'll win pretty much every seat. I'm proudly SNP, but under first past the post we have only six Westminster seats, and much as I'd love it, I don't see all the energy of Yes coming to us. Many other organisations deserve to continue; we must help that process and support them to argue our corner in Westminster. How about Women for Independence, National Collective, the Greens, Socialists, Radical Independence and more coming together with the SNP under a united banner for the Westminster elections.

If the common manifesto is no more than "You made us a promise, Westminster, we're going to make you deliver", then the campaign will not be about the usual soul-crushing shades of grey policy differences but simply, solely, about delivery of that promise.

We can take a leaf out of the Five Star movement in Italy and the Podemos movement in Spain. They stood not to be politicians but to demand that politicians change how they do business. This campaign also found some stars who I would love to see at Westminster but who might not stand on an SNP ticket. A common platform might keep them on board.

A common platform will keep the bonds of friendship, engagement and energy going. It will give the Yes side a focus for all that energy, which I fear might otherwise dissipate or, worse, turn bitter. Think how many people voted for the first time on Thursday because, for the first time ever, they thought change was possible. How are they feeling now?

A lot of us have enjoyed this campaign, and enjoyed the fact the politicians facilitated rather than led it. We cannot go back to politics as usual and the SNP is, after all, not about politics as usual. We do not hold the monopoly on the independence franchise any more - we have spread that enthusiasm around. It now falls to us to remain united, and remain focused. We can't touch the sundry Lords that felt entitled to be part of our debate, but the MPs are vulnerable soon because of the impending elections. We were made a promise. They'll not make good on it unless we make them.

Alyn Smith is an SNP MEP and member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament