In 1979, I cast my first-ever vote in the referendum on devolution.
I believed in devolution as strongly then as I do now, but it took 20 years before we saw the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, and I joined Scottish Labour's first-ever group of MSPs at Holyrood.
This was the late Donald Dewar's "new voice in the land", but he was clear with us that we weren't just there to speak for Scotland, we were there to shape it too; to repair the Thatcher legacy and renew Scotland for the future.
Donald Dewar is often wrongly quoted as having said that devolution was a "process, not an event". He is less often remembered for saying that the constitutional settlement was "stable, but not rigid" and warning against the decade after the establishment of the Parliament being "one long embittering fight over further constitutional change." The question, he said, was "what we do with our Parliament, not what we do to it."
His "process" of devolution wasn't about a continuing constitutional battle; it was about changing Scotland.
The partnership between the UK and Scottish governments was central to that, as was the underpinning of public spending agreed through the Barnett Formula which helped Scotland address its unique needs. This is a settlement that has served Scotland well and which the Labour Party fully supports.
In those early years of devolution we achieved a lot. The attention paid to housing, with pioneering work on homelessness and new housing standards, meant that the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland changed in just a few years.
In arts and culture, we gave support and a new focus to an area long neglected during the 19800s. Decisions, like that taken to establish the National Theatre for Scotland, set a new direction for a whole area of Scottish life. Also, I could mention land reform, free personal care and leading the UK with the smoking ban. As we approach the independence referendum, and the UK and Scottish General elections in the next few years, this is a good time to reflect on how our institutions in Scotland have matured since that first day in 1999.
It is worth asking ourselves how well we have done, what we have achieved and what more we can do.
I served as a minister in the Scottish cabinet for five years and now I sit round the UK Shadow Cabinet table alongside many people who served in the last UK Government. Assessing what we achieved and what we did not manage to achieve is a question I often ask myself and frequently see my colleagues ask about their time in government.
However, it is worrying that often even questioning the success of the policies we pursued after devolution is often wilfully misinterpreted as calling into question the principle of devolution itself. Not only is that dispiriting, it is damaging to political debate in Scotland.
It is not unpatriotic, or a slight to devolution, to recognise that deep-seated problems still exist in Scotland and to ask ourselves how we should respond to them in a way that brings together evidence, our aspirations and our politics. Not every solution should be seen through a constitutional lens.
The Scottish Parliament and devolution are still relatively young, but in the Scottish Parliament we have an institution with real power to change lives and open up new possibilities for people across the country.
We need much more discussion about how we use these powers to act. To do so isn't to diminish the achievements of devolution. It is to work out how we can meet the aspirations we had in 1999, captured so well by Donald Dewar: "to do right by the people of Scotland; to respect their priorities; to better their lot; and to contribute to the commonweal."
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