It is becoming very clear that Scotland’s referendum is going to have far-reaching consequences – with the parties and ambitious politicians at each other’s throats for whatever advantage they can squeeze out of the results. My fear is that the establishment will use constitutional change simply to fix the status quo. The fix that the masters of the universe and many of our politicians want is one that leaves the same people in charge to do the same things.The way the Power Inquiry was run is an exemplar it would be hard to better; a series of rolling nationwide consultative opportunities and a comprehensive report all done within a relatively very short time.
There is no need for some long and deadly, great and good royal commission, but if you want people to really consider the consequences of changes you need to give them a genuine opportunity to participate. You can do that with deliberative polls, where people meet and hear the arguments and express their views. You can do it with people’s juries, where there are challenging questions and alternatives and a commitment to following through on the results. People should be able to organise around the issues in their own communities.
Instead, we are back to top-down control. This is not about doing things differently but about Westminster designing change to head off at the pass something deeper and more democratic. In the bars at party conferences they will be asking themselves: how can we control this and get the outcome we want?
So please don't believe any politician who tells you that this sort of comprehensive consultation cannot be carried out in the time available; they will be lying.