THIS week marks one year until the referendum on Scotland's constitutional future.
Stepping back over the summer from the day-to-day exchanges confirmed to me just how arid much of the contemporary constitutional debate has become.
There is a real risk the vitriol, which at times has infected the debate, will not simply fade post-September 18, 2014. Whatever the outcome of the vote, that cannot and would not be good for Scotland.
How can the referendum debate be more worthy of this moment in our nation's history? It's time to dig deeper into the traditions which have shaped our better values and instincts and seek to apply them anew to this debate.
I would suggest one of the reasons the Nationalists are becalmed with a year to go is that their language just doesn't accord with or even recognise the deeper emotional questions that underlie the choice of walking away from the ideas and institutions, the family members and the friends who have helped shape our sense of self in Scotland for generations.
Nationalism in Scotland attempts to provide a simple and simplistic morality tale of decent, progressive Scots held back by whoever is their chosen 'other' of the day... Labour, London, the United Kingdom.
All too often this misinterprets our shared history and, at times, our shared responsibility, and indulges a cultural conceit that not only are we - as Scots - concerned about social justice, but suggests that our friends, neighbours and family members in the rest of the UK are not.
And that explains the granite-like resistance of most Scots towards embracing separation. A critique of our opponents matters but, of itself, is not and should not be enough. If we believe that within the UK our life together as Scots can be better, it is incumbent on us to make that case. I am genuinely open minded as to how the devolution settlement can be improved. I welcome the fact Scottish Labour's Leader Johann Lamont has established a Devolution Commission to look at exactly that issue. It is necessary and important work.
For me, a better nation would be characterised by a different balance of power in Scottish society, more than by a different balance of powers for Scotland's Parliament. That's why back in March I called for a National Convention, Scotland 2025, to chart a new vision for an old nation for the next decade.
It was a conscious attempt to break out of the narrowness of a debate bounded by support for nationalism on one side and support for the status quo on the other. It would be both an expression of our patriotism and pride in Scotland, and a mechanism by which to translate our sense of possibility for post-2014 Scotland into practical policies.
A national convention could and should draw on initiatives taken in Iceland and Australia, both of whom have tried similar gatherings as catalysts for changing public debate. As a Scottish Labour MP I welcome the response from both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats supporting the idea of a National Convention.
And so I hope such a National Convention could become a shared commitment. It would be a very tangible answer to the question: "What comes next if Scotland rejects separation in 2014?"
If Scotland does reject separation, then why shouldn't Nationalists also come to see a National Convention as a constructive means to discuss, deliberate and decide together on what our better future within the UK looks like?
For while next September will resolve whether or not Scots want to be a nation separate from the rest of the UK, the deeper question as to what kind of Scotland we want to be will not be resolved by the answer given by the referendum.
The conversation about our nation's future can be about something more than power and process. Are we willing to make the debate of this year something much deeper and longer lasting than is offered at the moment?
That would make the months ahead a deeply significant chapter in our nation's story.
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