Referendum: time to move on

The referendum's over; time to move on.
The referendum's over; time to move on.

Many of us here in East Renfrewshire and across Scotland breathed a huge collective sigh of relief last month.

On a mammoth 90 per cent turnout and with just under two thirds of local voters opting to keep Scotland in the UK, the decision was a clear one, but it was not marked by joy or gloating or even a sense of celebration.

Instead what we’ve seen is a quiet determination to mend fences, a collective wish to rebuild relationships and a sincere desire to see how we can all work together again in the common interest.

There is no doubting the level of passion the referendum campaign generated on both sides but I take comfort in the fact that there was a common agenda too.

The language of social justice was used by “yes” and “no” alike and both were motivated by a desire to secure the future of the NHS, to deliver affordable accessible childcare and to create decent jobs.

We all want to see a fairer Scotland, a more egalitarian Scotland, and I hope a kinder, gentler Scotland.

It will not be easy to put political tribalism to one side and I am not asking anyone to give up principles or beliefs.

But now is the time to move on to the issues that vex people’s lives here today in East Renfrewshire: how to ensure people can enjoy their old age in comfort and security; how to help families squeezed by austerity and recession; and how to ensure not just our children but people of all ages make the most of our schools, colleges and universities.

The question before us is no longer about where those decisions will be taken, but how we make the most of our democratic renewal and use the Scottish and UK Parliaments to create a better country.

I have never lost the optimism and hope that spurred me to stand for election to the first Scottish Parliament.

The welcoming, caring Scotland I want to see, the prosperous, healthy and educated society I want to help build is within our grasp.

So thank you for that vote. Thank you for that shared vision and the hope it has given me.