So, you’re facing a crisis? Matters of state? Constitutional chaos? International economic catastrophe? Your place in the world?

Have you tried Gordon Brown?

In all his tarnished armour, Scotland’s answer to Don Quixote rides once more to front lines – proffering his solution to our present woes. And who wouldn’t want to listen? Whilst his appearance at times of dilemma has become a bit of a running joke, the former PM and erstwhile ‘iron chancellor’ is just the tonic downtrodden, elitist, suburban, centrists need to mix with their batch-distilled gin. 

In an era where Donald Trump appears to instil George W Bush with the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain and Italy’s Deputy PM makes Alf Garnett seem ‘inclusive’, Oor Gordon strides the stage like a veritable titan.

Wading in to the Brexit melee – alongside all other living Prime Ministers, with the notable exception of the one who got us into this bloody mess in the first place – Mr Brown has proposed a Citizens’ Assembly to wrest decision making from a Westminster so constipated it’s innards appear to be crafted from terracotta. 

At SCVO, we’ve been consistent in our positions around Brexit – focussing on the human element of the unfolding debacle and putting our efforts in to maintaining human rights, European networks, the status of EU nationals, devolved powers and the future of funding. 

The principle of conducting a meaningfully conversation with the nation and the concept of a citizens’ assembly has also been put forth our very own Chief Executive, Anna Fowlie, who proposed a near identical course of action back in November 2018. Having laid out a plan to unilaterally revoke Article 50 (an idea also ahead of its time) she said: 

“In 1999, SCVO played an integral role in the Scottish Constitutional Convention; bringing together a swathe of civil society. The Convention set the terms for devolution and achieved it by ensuring a plurality of voices were heard and that decisions were shaped in the national interest.

“Faced with a far more complex constitutional challenge, and with no political leadership in sight, it’s time to buy time, prevent chaos and ensure people have a proper chance to have their say.”

Increasingly, this appears to be the only logical and sensible course of action. And, to paraphrase money-guru Martin Lewis, this would offer the public an opportunity to offer more than a black and white opinion on what is a rainbow issue.

The third sector has a history in amplifying a plurality of voices and steering political decision making accordingly. The example of devolution is perhaps the most recent and noteworthy one and something which could usefully be emulated in the early part of this century.  

On an issue so wide-ranging, so divisive and so integral to our collective future, it makes perfect sense to mobilise around this idea and ensure decisions do not become the sole preserve of those with the power to make them.

Perhaps, with no escape plan in sight, a vacuum of leadership and wishful thinking producing diminishing returns, it is up to the third sector to play it’s part in setting a future course guided by real and varied voices.