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An historic event, now Scotland must move forward

An historic event, now Scotland must move forward

19 September 2014

by Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty

The people of Scotland have spoken.  By approximately 55 per cent to 45 per cent they have voted to stay in the United Kingdom.

The Scottish independence referendum has been a truly historic event that has sparked a civic engagement in our country, the likes we have never seen before.

Before we deal with the outcome, let me say this: The grassroots activism seen across our communities the length and breadth of Scotland has been the genuine success story of this lengthy process – a rejuvenation of democracy that we have to sustain and protect at all costs.

I believe the continuation of this activism is now everyone’s responsibility. If we allow this unprecedented level of participation to dissipate then we will have failed this new generation of activists and the generations to come.

That responsibility falls on all us across Scottish and British politics.

The settled will of the Scottish people is to remain part of the United Kingdom, but there should be no triumphalism from the victorious campaign because this referendum has also demonstrated that there is a clear consensus rejecting the status-quo in our politics and society.

At the same time, the entire campaign may have amplified the problems facing many of us in Scotland today, but it has not resolved them.

The glaring barriers to social justice remain: decent work and pay for all, fully funded public services (including the defence of our NHS), tackling the failed economics of austerity, closing the scandalous income inequality gap and ending the scourge of chronic youth unemployment.

We also have an obvious democratic deficit in the control of our industries. We can’t redistribute wealth if we don’t have at least a meaningful stake in the ownership of our national assets. If we are serious about redistributing wealth to the many and not the few, then this must change.

All these issues must be challenged and overcome in the pursuit of a fairer society.   So there has to be positive economic, political and social changes to meet that demand for change in Scotland.

The immediate emphasis will be placed on the progression of the devolution timetable articulated by Gordon Brown and the public vow given by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg that Westminster will transfer further powers to the Scottish parliament.

This process will not be without significant challenges, particularly as the peoples of England, Wales and Northern Ireland look likely to demand more autonomous powers for themselves – and justifiably so.

However, if there is a failure to deliver on a settlement that satisfies the majority of people in Scotland then today's result will ultimately be a pyrrhic victory for the No campaign.

Unite will be watching events closely and actively making the collective voice of our members heard, just as we have done throughout this entire referendum campaign. Make no mistake; Unite expects nothing less than the full engagement of our union and our members in the development and delivery of this new future.

Finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our members. We are proud of your participations and there should be no doubt that Unite was a force for good in this referendum.

Our lay member democracy in Scotland chose not to endorse either 'Better Together' or 'Yes Scotland', opting instead for a positive engagement across the entire debate that allowed our members to reach their own determinations individually, in their workplaces and in their communities.

Unite activism could be seen and heard everywhere across the respective campaigns where the themes of employment, community, equality and social justice were debated and that is something that we are very proud of.

The hallmarks of that activism – democratic, informed, passionate and tolerant debate - now need to be carried forward as we accept the result and look to move forward in the weeks and months to come.

Reprisals and recriminations or misguided triumphalism will benefit no-one and nothing because, as we said previously, the challenges facing us as a society remain.  We must move forward.

So as the dust settles, the fight for social justice does not stop and that is where we now need to channel our collective energy.

And In Unite, progressive trade unionists can find a home to carry forward that fight.