The struggle to give Britain, and Scotland, a democracy fit for the 21st century has been long and hard.

The Maria Miller affair reminds us yet again that any changes so far have been cosmetic and have left the basic problem - a system alienated from the people it is supposed to serve - unsolved and unchanged.

From 2004 to 2006, the centenary project of the Rowntree Foundations set up an intensive "Independent Inquiry into Britain's Democracy" called POWER. Chaired by Helena Kennedy, this took evidence from thousands throughout the UK, and produced a report of more than 300 pages, with radical proposals, none of which has been implemented.

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However, its serious analysis might be summed up in three points, all of which have resonance for Scotland's choice in September.

l "The current way of doing politics is killing politics. The level of alienation felt towards politicians, the main political parties and the key institutions of the political system is extremely high and widespread." There is no doubt that since then, this contempt has deepened, and, in the absence of any serious reform, is one of reasons for the emergence of Ukip.

l "The response to this problem should be about a rethinking of the way we do politics in Britain so that citizens and their concerns are at the heart of government ... A new politics will only be born once the structural problems within the current system are addressed. When politicians were asked for ideas on re-engagement the suggested solutions were almost all about tweaking the existing system, with a bit of new technology here and a consultation there." The report identifies that the problem is systemic, the result of a system of government that is past its sell-by date and unfit for purpose, while the current solutions are cosmetic,

l "We should be creating a culture of political engagement in which it becomes the norm for policy and decision-making to occur with direct input from citizens. Only a sustained campaign for change from outside the democratic assemblies and parliaments of the UK will ensure that meaningful reform occurs." The Constitutional Convention proposed, and the new Scottish Parliament adopted, four principles about the sharing and accountability of power. The third of these echoes the POWER report. We in the convention called for "a participative approach to the development and scrutiny of policy and legislation." That remains a part of the convention's unfinished business.

With the expenses scandal in 2009, we hoped the time had come when the whole system would at last be put under intense scrutiny. David Cameron seemed to encourage these hopes when he said: "I believe there is only one way out of this national crisis we face: we need a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street."

Well, the mood changed. Mr Cameron came into power and promptly forgot. The system prevailed but the current debate in Scotland gives us a real chance to renew our democracy. I am more and more tempted to say Yes, for two reasons: fear and a hope

My fear is that, if Scotland says No, we will sink back into the discredited UK system, probably tarted up by a few cosmetic changes.

My hope is that Scotland could build what the convention called "a new community and political culture", the constitutional foundation for better governance, a remodelled democracy, real participation by the people in structured ways in the political process, and the limits and accountability of power.

Both that hope and that fear remind us to be vigilant so that, if it is Yes, we do not simply adopt the patterns and systems of Westminster for a new Scotland.

If we can do these things, Scotland could be an example of better government to a Europe we believe in; and, possibly, even the threat of a good example to the continuing UK.