After the referendum, we must ensure Scots stay engaged in building a fairer, greener country

The referendum in Scotland has led to a mass engagement in politics, but the vote on the 18th of September isn't the end, it's the start.

Lang Banks
3 September 2014

Image credit: www.energyrealities.orgIf you can, imagine yourselves on the other side of the referendum. It’s easy to imagine that once such a big question has been asked on 18 September, Scotland’s future will be settled.

No, it won’t, not quite. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, we know that some kind of change will come. Once Scotland has decided its constitutional direction (the shape, the size, the way it operates, the way it makes decisions), Scotland must also decide its policy direction (what we want to do with our powers, how we look after our people or our environment, what we spend, what we build). It’s one thing having certain powers in your toolbox, it’s another thing to use the powers that we have in a way that achieves real-world outcomes.

It is the policy questions that, once Better Together and Yes Scotland have disbanded after September 18th, the political parties that want to form the next Scottish Government will have to answer. For example, if Scotland gets new powers over North Sea oil, what are the policies the next Government will put into place to ensure a planned transition away from oil? What are the policies the next Government will put in place to ensure that we meet our climate change targets? Where will climate change come in the next Government’s priority list? Where do environmental considerations fit in the next Government’s list of tax and spend priorities? Will the next Government bring forward a programme of green infrastructure projects that will help cut our emissions rather than add to them? These are the real questions that haven’t been answered by either side of the constitutional debate, but must be answered in the debate around the 2016 election. It is then that voters decide which party has the vision to move Scotland forward in a more sustainable manner.

The organisations that make up the 2014 Matters coalition, like WWF Scotland, are all about advocating the kinds of policies that make Scotland, and the world, a better place to live. Once the referendum is done, we will be calling on the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the Greens, to come up with the right policies to achieve the real outcomes we want and our planet needs.

I hope, and expect, that there will be a large turnout for the referendum. As we have seen with the series of referendum events our coalition has organised this year, people are interested in environmental issues, social justice, poverty eradication. They want to be able to contribute to public debate on these issues, hold their politicians to account on their commitments, and discuss new ways of tackling the issues that affect them. I also hope that this level of public interest and debate is evidence of an upsurge of interest in politics, a feeling of empowerment, of being listened to, a feeling that together we can achieve better outcomes with better policies.

I also hope that once the referendum campaign is over, Scotland’s political parties capitalise on this interest, and ensure that when they ask the electorate for their votes the next time round, be it in 2015 or 2016, they will inspire us all with the kind of ambitious, progressive policies to bring about the kind of outcomes we want. WWF Scotland will play our part. We hope that the parties will do the same.  P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }A:link { }

Watch the highlights from the 2014 Matters referendum event on climate change in Glasgow here.

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