Purfleet, by Allister Webb, March 21, 2017

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to charity Cyrenians in Edinburgh.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to charity Cyrenians in Edinburgh.
Have your say

Three summers ago, I had the privilege of being in Glasgow as the city did a wonderful job of hosting the Commonwealth Games.

One memory in particular lingers more than most – that of standing outside the judo hall hearing Flower of Scotland sung with gusto during a medal ceremony.

Coming as it did just a few weeks before the Scottish independence referendum, it felt like those words had more meaning then than at any other time I’d heard them before.

And yet, as the calls for a second poll on the issue grow ever louder, it seems even more obvious now than then that Scotland is actually part of a much broader question – whether our government structures are right for these times.

Of course, we’ve already had a taste of it here with the debate and rejection of devolution and I’ve no doubt the unitary question that continues to hover over our politics will provoke more passionate argument over the coming months and years.

But, whether it’s devolution in Norfolk, a city mayor in Manchester, an assembly in Wales or a parliament in Scotland, they are all symptoms of a scattergun approach to the fundamental issue of how we are governed and by whom.

The Brexit process ought, in my view at least, to be a catalyst for a wider reflection about the type of country we are and whether the structures that will remain once it is completed are suitable for the future.

Locally, we need to consider whether the current system of county and district councils is really sustainable any more. If not, whatshould replace it?

Nationally, should we, as former prime minister Gordon Brown argued at the weekend, move towards a more federal system of government for the UK? If so, does that then require the creation of some sort of English legislature, or can it be accommodated by reforming existing structures?

I don’t have the answers. I’m only clear on two things. First, these issues need to be properly considered. Second, if plans for change are drawn up, they should only be implemented if the public want them to be.

I’m sure the people of Scotland will consider independence again in the future, and so they should. I remember a close Scottish friend of mine telling me she was going to vote Yes in 2014 and not having the heart to try to change her mind. Ultimately, we all have the right, whether we choose to use it or not, to have our say on the paths we wish to take as collective communities, particularly in such crucial areas.

But the risk of overly focusing on one issue is overlooking the bigger picture. Chuck Berry, whose death was announced at the weekend, once sang of having “no particular place to go.” I hope we don’t end up somewhere we’d rather not.