IT’S been a bit of a week. While we had Groundhog Day from both official sides of the EU debate, something a bit different happened in Scotland. Women for Independence (WFI) launched the results of its “listening exercise”, a repeat of the successful initiative that helped establish the network in the early days of the independence referendum debate, reaching out to women across the country, this time to ask: “What do women want from the Scottish Parliament?”

In many ways, the approach is as important as the findings. It represents a different way of opening up discussion on politics and in the fervour of a pre-election period, a welcome, calm space to discuss ideas. The end result isn’t a “manifesto”. It’s a summary of the main issues and ideas raised. There are, of course, policy ideas but the running thread through it, and the listening sessions that made it, is about the kind of Scotland women want. And that touches something far deeper and more substantive than we are used to in election campaigns. Maybe that is why it has been labelled as “radical”.

Election campaigns are all about the offer. Who will do what, how much will it cost, and did they do what they promised last time. Numbers are thrown around like heat-seeking missiles. Claim and counter claim, and a media circling the big players looking for gaffes.

Please don’t misunderstand. I like a good argument, but our cyclical election furore too often ignores or excludes some big questions. Debates are narrowed down to “for or against”, ignoring what we all know – that our lives are complex, complicated and interwoven and there is no single magic trick to make them better. What the women involved in those listening exercises chose to talk about goes right to the heart of it all. What kind of Scotland do we want and how are we going to get there? The beginnings of an answer to that from the women involved is not a crude “independence or nothing”. It’s a series of propositions and possibilities to change and improve Scotland.

No-one asked for a richer Scotland, but they did ask for a profoundly different Scotland and one where communities had more power, public services are redesigned and built from the bottom up, and land reform means looking at how land is used and is connected with communities to tackle poverty and health inequalities. Some of the changes called for don’t require Scottish independence, or even support for independence. Just a commitment to doing things differently. And there lies the biggest challenge to all politicians, a challenge that, in part at least, Nicola Sturgeon has responded to in the SNP 2016 manifesto.

There is scale and ambition in the manifesto and a great deal in both policy and priorities. Clear political choices are being made and set out. But there is also a recognition that the core of injustice and inequality that continues to blight Scotland cannot be eradicated by a set of single policies – no matter how laudable each one is. What is needed is a coherent, strategic approach. One that recognises interdependency and where each area is measured and monitored against its capacity to meet the shared objective. And running through the pages is a clear commitment to reach out and involve people across the country.

During elections, we expect the focus to be on differences between parties. But WFI is saying to every politician is: “politics isn’t just about you! After the election, can we see a Scottish Parliament where division isn’t sought for its own sake? A Parliament that focuses on the big questions, finds areas of common ground and debates genuine differences? It’s happened before. The reshaping of education through the curriculum for excellence crossed political administrations; the “named person” is a step in delivering the cross-party-agreed strategy of “Getting it Right for Every Child”.

After September 2014, we talked a lot about the increased political engagement in Scotland. About how voters had woken up to the power they hold and, in growing numbers, demanded to be involved and heard.

The change has been welcomed across the board. Now it is time for politicians of all parties to make good on that welcome and chart a different route from the braying of Westminster, to work hard to begin to do politics differently.