Scotland’s rejection of independence could still lead to fundamental constitutional change.
Despite the no vote in the referendum, calls have been made for a citizen-led process which will look at how new, devolved powers – promised by unionist parties during the campaign – can entrench democracy.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) say that despite voters rejecting independence, there is an overwhelming desire for root and branch democratic reform.
In a joint letter to Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, they make the case for an imaginative reframing of democracy in Scotland.
The letter states: “The debate over the two and a half years has been exciting and has engaged people in unprecedented numbers. It has also offered a vision of how a more just and equal society might be created provided the Scottish people can work together to achieve those ends.
“The result will hopefully act as the catalyst we need for people, communities, and organisations across all sectors – third, public and private – to work together in a new way to create real change in a new Scotland.
Our organisations, and the millions we represent, need to know and trust that the people will not be locked out of what happens following this referendum
“SCVO, STUC and NUS Scotland strongly believe that to deliver fundamental change in Scotland we need to significantly change the way we do things.
“We want to see a citizen-led process that works to form Scotland’s new constitutional settlement – a new way of doing democracy and making decisions in Scotland, that puts the people first. This must go beyond the existing model where government consults with communities and involve genuine ownership of the process by the people.
“Such a process should, of course, include civil society organisations such as our own which represent those in workplaces, communities and education institutions. But it also requires a commitment to new ways of engaging citizens and small communities of interest more directly.
"As well as shaping Scotland’s new constitutional arrangement, this process must consider other aspects of accountability and community empowerment. It would also provide the foundation for the building of a successful social partnership model, similar to those which exist in many successful small countries in Europe.
“Our organisations, and the millions of people in Scotland that we represent, need to know and trust that the people will not be locked out of what happens following this referendum.”
Carmichael has been asked to endorse a citizen-led process to ensure the people decide the next steps for Scotland.
The letter explains: “This process, rather than one led by politicians alone, would have two elements – firstly, consideration of more powers for the parliament and, secondly, consideration of how we empower our people over the decisions that affect their lives:
“The citizen-led process looking at powers would potentially keep to the timeline proposed by Gordon Brown, but crucially, it would take the powers offered by the three main unionist parties in the campaign as a starting point and have a mandate to look beyond them.
“The second element would look beyond constitutional powers, to how we can empower communities and citizens in the decisions that affect their lives. This would likely have a longer timetable, perhaps in time for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016.
“The benefits of a citizen-led approach is that we will show that we wish to start as we wish to go on, genuinely changing how we make decisions in Scotland, empowering the people of Scotland over the decisions that affect their lives.”
The letter ends by asking Carmichael to attend a meeting which would kick-start the process.