Scotland's future and social justice

The debate over options for Scotland's future is at the moment primarily focused on how, when, with what question(s) and on what terms the referendum around the constitution will take place.

The issues may or may not boil down to a 'yes' or 'no' choice on the voting paper (personally, I hope that there will be two questions rather than one), but it is clear that the conversation and discussion ought to be far larger.

At the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) on Wednesday 25 April, a debate on the constitutional issues - the first of many between now and 2014 - has been taking place.

Just as importantly, the STUC General Council invited people to a lunchtime meeting (12.30pm, La Scala Cinema, Eden Court, Inverness) where General Secretary Grahame Smith spoke alongside the Rev Ian Galloway (convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland), political reformer Willie Sullivan (Scottish director of the Electoral Reform Society) and Esther Robertson (former co-ordinator of the Scottish Constitutional Convention).

The event was filmed for subsequent edited release.

Civil society groups, trades unions, churches, charities and others ought to be taking a proactive role in this conversation. And, as this fringe meeting is doing, the focus needs to be on social justice and what sort of society we want to live in.

The National Union of Journalists, for which I have been an STUC delegate, and other unions, have members with diverse opinions on the constitutional issue. The thing we are all committed to is that the debate is properly resourced and positive.

Personally speaking, I favour a self-governing Scotland, operating in an inter-dependent and internationalist way. That's a federalist, subsidiarity-oriented perspective which means that 'independence' isn't, and should be, about a narrow nationalist, go-it-alone, stuff-others mentality.

On the contrary, Scottish self-governance in the context of these islands and Europe as a whole ought to be about the capacity to take a different, forward looking stance on justice for all, alternative economic models, the refusal of nuclear weapons, a welcoming migration policy, solidaristic international policies and much more.

How this can be done and achieved is what the conversation and debate needs to be about among those who share that kind of vision.

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(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

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