Historical fact: Scots are sovereign . First Minister Alex Salmond, and now John Drummond, chair of the Constitutional Commission, have requested a written constitution for Scotland, post-independence (In or out of Europe, Scotland needs a written constitution, Comment, January 20).
This is a rather odd position to postulate in the light of the historical facts. Scotland-UN (which I founded in 1970) is the only pro-devolution/independence organisation that received an invitation to, and sent delegates to, a United Nations Human Rights Committee meeting in Geneva in June 1980, where our delegates put Scotland's case for self-determination on the world's stage.
Scotland has had, for more than 1500 years, a written constitution (the oldest in the Western world), which merely requires additional clauses passed in Scotland's Parliament to bring it up to the needs and aspirations of the people of Scotland going forward in the 21st century.
No other political or judicial system here or abroad has any dominion over the sovereign people of Scotland nor their Parliament, who are the sole arbiters and superior authority of all matters dealing with our constitution.
Which is why, in 1707, the people of Scotland responded to the news of the loss of their Parliament with unbridled fury. Any legislation of modern times, be it from London or Strasbourg, does not, nor can it, diminish or overturn the legitimacy of Scottish sovereignty as the superior constitutional authority. Why? Because the people of Scotland were never consulted in 1707. . John JG McGill (General Secretary, Scotland-UN) Kilmarnock
"The First Minister is right to say that the process of writing a constitution should engage all of Scotland, and not just political parties, but for that to happen we should aim to inspire people now with a picture of how other countries such as Iceland have gone about this in a radically democratic way."
BBC Scotlandshire - All the news we want you to see. Bringing you ludicrous, spurious and ill-conceived Scottish stories from Atlantic Quay. Any similarity to other terminally biased national broadcasters is entirely unfortunate.
Labour voters for Scottish Independence · 1,880 like this.about an hour ago · Dear Mr Sarwar MP I write this in response to your untrue, unfounded and un-researched allegations in the House of Commons during the Section 30 debate. In your speech you claimed:
"We have seen the launch of the Labour for Independence campaign, which has one or a maximum of two Labour members fronting a campaign led mainly by the SNP…..”
Some might call it admirable that you feel you can give such false information to the British Parliament without any evidence or research behind it. However, we at Labour for Independence believe in an honest political dialogue.
Here is a list of Labour party members who are staff and ambassadors of Labour for Independence. We have also included some supporters at their own request to show their full backing for our group.
Allan Grogan- Labour member & LFI founder Steven Syme - Labour member & LFI Southern Scotland regional co-ordinator. Alex Bell – Labour member & LFI West Coast co-ordinator Paul Leinster- Labour member & LFI Ambassador Debbie Waters- Labour member & LFI Ambassador John Paul Tonner- Labour member & LFI Ambassador Michael Daley- Labour member & LFI Ambassador Celia Fitzgerald- Labour member & LFI Ambassador Alex Foulkes- Labour member & LFI supporter Tam Dewar- Labour member & LFI supporter Robert Cowie- Labour member & LFI supporter John Dalzell- Labour member & LFI activist Robert Lodge- Labour member & LFI activist A mention must also go to George Anderson, former Labour member, one of the heroes of the Skye Bridge crossing group, and now a LFI ambassador.
We have not carried out a full audit of members and supporters. But this sample clearly shows that we have more than a ‘maximum of two’ members. We are sure that throughout our social media support and our grass roots campaigning we have and will continue to receive more support from our fellow Labour members.
While Labour membership numbers seem to be especially important to the party HQ when discussing LFI, it is important to stress that we are not solely a members group. We encourage and welcome support from all of Labour, including past supporters. I am sure you will appreciate that the success of any group is not based solely on formal membership. If so the Labour party would have received 13,000 votes in the last Scottish Election finishing up 90,000 votes behind the Lib Dems. Your other accusation that we are a front for the SNP is plainly ludicrous and will be seen for the lie it is. Frankly, this is a desperate move by a party hierarchy out of touch with their members, supporters and the people of Scotland.
I hope this goes some way to giving you the facts. I will assume that you will no longer be peddling such mistruths in future. This will be the last time we will respond to such remarks; any further similar attacks will be treated with the contempt they deserve.
On a personal level I would like to say how disappointed I was with your comments in the House particularly coming only days after you promised a positive campaign.
We at LFI and Yes Scotland will continue to deliver a positive message to all Labour supporters and to the people of Scotland, persuading them of the benefits an independent Scotland will bring, with a real Scottish Labour party at the heart of it.
Regards Allan Grogan Labour for Independence Founder.
So that’s Westminster’s role in Scotland’s referendum at an end, and I’m sure that anyone who watched the 6 hour marathon debate on the Section 30 order will breathe a huge sigh of relief at that.
Westminster isn’t just opposed to independence it loathes the very suggestion of it. Some of the comments from our unionist friends in the debate weren’t just political knock about, they verged on the contemptuous and bizarre.
The chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee actually went as far as to say that the referendum was timed to celebrate Scots slaughtering “large numbers of English people.” This is the same man called the SNP “neo-fascist” and reduced this once proud committee to little more than an appendage of the No campaign.
The Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party in his extraordinary contribution said that the Scottish Parliament “is not a democratic place in the conventional sense” but “is a dictatorship”. Now, I don’t know if this is the official view of the Labour party in Scotland but is seems that they have lost all respect for the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.
Most of these comments seem to be because we will not “confirm” to them that the Scottish Parliament will “accept unconditionally” the view of the Electoral Commission on the referendum. Indeed, they went as far as to suggest that the referendum should not be a matter for directly elected Members of Parliament, accountable to the public, but be exclusively a matter for an unelected body appointed to advise the Westminster Parliament.
No Parliament in the world would agree to such a ridiculous proposition and that includes the Westminster Parliament itself. Last year the UK Government rejected the advice of the Electoral Commission on local authority elections, indeed, the Minister responsible is alleged to have told the Electoral Commission where they might wish to dispose of their question! The Electoral Commission themselves say that their role is to advise Government and it is for elected members to decide. That is what happens in a democracy.
We also don’t know what the Electoral Commission is going to say. Yes, we might agree with them, but to demand that we do so in advance would be a desertion of democratic responsibility.
But did this issue with the electoral commission deserve all the hyperbole and nonsense we heard from unionists in the debate? Westminster says it wants a role and wants to be listened to in the debate about the referendum. Well, it’s going to have to do better than this. On current evidence all I can say is thank goodness it’s a matter for the Scottish Parliament.
To give but one example of the quality of Westminster’s contribution I will end with a quote from the (respected)Tory MP, Rory Stewart. He said “Independence will not cause the war between England and Scotland to start again. Those days of savagery, murder, pillage and rape – what we saw in Cumbria for 400 years – will not return”.
'Yes' Glasgow event is hailed a huge success . Stewart Paterson Political Reporter . Thursday 17 January 2013 . DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Glasgow launch of the Yes Scotland independence campaign last night was "the biggest and best" so far. . The broad coalition of pro-independence groups had hired a 700-seat conference suite at the city's Radisson Hotel and all but filled it. . Ms Sturgeon was joined on stage by young Glasgow trade unionist Cat Boyd and Scottish Green co-convener Martha Wardrop.
They addressed an enthusiastic and diverse crowd.
Ms Sturgeon told the gathering: "What a fantastic sight I'm looking out on now - the 'Yes' Glasgow event has been the biggest and best anywhere in the campaign."
Her view was echoed by chief executive of the Yes Campaign, Blair Jenkins, who said: "This is the biggest turn-out we've had at any event."
Campaign organisers and politicians who back independence kicked off their campaign last summer and are now looking to persuade people in Glasgow to vote Yes in 2014.
Former Labour MSP and MP, Dennis Canavan and representatives of the Scottish Socialist Party and trade unions also attended.
The SNP is at the forefront of the campaign, and hopes to build on its Scottish Parliament election success in 2011.
Ms Sturgeon went on to tell the gathering: "It is an exciting prospect, and the case for Yes will inspire and motivate people in Glasgow and across the country, including many who do not normally vote, perhaps because they do not feel they have a voice that is listened to under the current system.
"In an independent Scotland, all voices will be listened to, and everyone will have a stake.
"Independence means that Scotland gets the government we vote for all the time."
Ms Wardrop, said: "The campaign for Scottish independence can promote full and effective voluntary participation at all levels, giving equal opportunities to, and advocating further for the rights of young and old, women and men, poor and low-skilled workers, and local communities.
"We hope Scotland will be nuclear-free and a peace- loving nation."
”Scotland is currently the home of Western Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction. They are based on the River Clyde, within 30 miles of Scotland’s largest city”...
"Scotland is currently the home of Western Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction. They are based on the River Clyde, within 30 miles of Scotland’s largest city" . Speech by First Minister Alex Salmond to the Foreign Press Association in London .
Today, the Westminster Parliament concludes its consideration of a piece of secondary legislation under the Scotland Act. That might not normally sound like something worth making a speech about. However this Section 30 Order, as it is known, ensures that the referendum on Scottish independence in autumn 2014 will be designed, built and overseen in Scotland.
Today is an appropriate date for Westminster to finish its deliberations. It was on the 16th of January in 1707, that the old Scots Parliament voted to ratify the Treaty of Union.
In less than two years’ time Scotland will be faced with its most important decision since that day in 1707.
This time, the decision will not be made by Parliament alone, but by the people of Scotland as a whole.
The Section 30 Order demonstrates that the Edinburgh Agreement, which I signed with David Cameron in October, is being honoured by both the UK and Scottish Governments as we move towards the referendum.
It shows that although we disagree fundamentally about the merits of independence, the referendum itself will take place with the consent and co-operation of both the UK Government and the Scottish Government.
That consent and co-operation is an important factor in the Scottish constitutional debate – and it means that Scotland’s referendum takes place in a very different context from many of the other debates and discussions about sovereignty taking place elsewhere around the world.
The Section 30 Order is not just important because it gives the Scottish Parliament unchallengeable authority to legislate for a referendum. It is also important as a template for co-operation between the Scottish and UK Governments after the referendum.
The SNP victory in 2011 made clear the people’s wish for a referendum on independence. That was recognised immediately by all sides. The Edinburgh Agreement set out how the process would be taken forward.
In the same way, a vote for independence in the referendum would be recognised immediately by all sides.
Indeed, under the Edinburgh Agreement, the Scottish and UK Governments have made a commitment to work together after the referendum, and to respect the outcome.
Regardless of whatever scaremongering takes place during the period before the referendum, once the people’s decision is known, that is exactly what will happen.
Constitutional platform for independence
International precedents – especially the establishment of the Czech and Slovak republics, and the reunification of Germany - demonstrate that once the popular will is determined, constitutional discussions can be concluded in good time.
We expect, therefore, that by May 2016 - the date of the next elections to the Scottish Parliament - legislation will be in place which transfers sovereignty from Westminster to Holyrood. We will have agreed necessary transitional arrangements with the UK Government. And Scotland’s independence will have been accepted by the international community.
An independent Scotland would not make changes to policy in reserved areas until after those elections in 2016. Until the transfer of sovereignty takes place, we will not have the power to do so. Essentially, nothing will change, in reserved areas, until and unless a newly elected independent Scottish Parliament begins its work, and chooses to change them.
However what we will do is establish the constitutional platform for independence – preserving continuity in key areas, but providing the first independent Scottish Parliament with the tools to make Scotland a better place.
A constitutional convention for Scotland
That process of becoming independent is hugely important. But for this morning’s speech I want to look beyond issues of process. I want to talk about why the 2014 referendum matters, why we seek independence, the sort of Scotland we wish to see.
Following a yes vote in 2014, the first independent Scottish parliament will be elected in May 2016. One of the first, most fundamental and exciting tasks of that parliament will be to establish the process for Scotland’s first written constitution through a constitutional convention.
For centuries, Scotland has had a distinct constitutional tradition - first expressed in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, reaffirmed by the 1989 Claim of Right for Scotland, and most recently restated by the Scottish Parliament just one year ago.
That tradition states that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that they have the power to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. It stands in contrast to the UK principle that parliament has unlimited sovereignty.
That UK tradition is one of the reasons that the UK has no written constitution. That makes the UK highly unusual among Western democracies, and unique within the European Union. That deficiency is a democratic deficit that an independent Scotland should not repeat.
We will make it one of the first duties of the parliament of an independent Scotland to establish a convention to draw up that written constitution. And we will return to our older constitutional tradition of the people’s sovereignty, by making sure the people are directly involved in that process.
There are some recent and inspiring examples of constitutional renewal involving citizens as well as politicians. In particular, Iceland is an example of modern technologies being used to harness enthusiasm of citizens as well as politicians in the renewal of their constitution. After wide consultation, its new constitution was approved by the people last October.
Looking further back, the US Constitutional Convention of 1787 brought representatives together from across the country – they set out the values of the new republic with such principled clarity that the document is still revered more than 200 years later.
Scotland’s constitutional convention will provide an opportunity for everyone to express their views. All political parties will be involved, together with the wider public and civic Scotland.
The reason for this is that Scotland’s constitution should enshrine the people’s sovereignty and affirm the values and rights of the people, of the Community of the Realm of Scotland. Since no single party or individual has a monopoly on good ideas; all parties, and all individuals, will be encouraged to contribute.
Specific proposals for Scotland’s new constitution
The current Scottish Government has specific proposals about some of the measures which could be included in a written constitution.
All parties and citizens of Scotland will be encouraged to contribute their views of what should be in Scotland’s first written constitution. I don’t want to be prescriptive, because the Scottish Government is just one voice in the process, but nevertheless it is useful to have examples for illustration. It is important to remember that the devolved Scottish Parliament already has embedded in it the European Convention on Human Rights, and these kinds of safeguard will continue to be built in to the parliament of an independent Scotland. However what I have in mind are constitutional provisions that go beyond those touchstone rights to embrace fundamental human concerns, the key economic, social and environmental needs of every citizen and the responsibilities of state and citizen towards each other.
I want to outline just three examples today, to highlight some of the issues the Constitutional Convention could consider.
At the moment, the UK Government’s austerity measures and welfare cuts are raising questions about how people’s rights to vital social services can be protected. In Scotland we have a policy of the right to free education in keeping with our history as the nation which pioneered universal education. We also have homelessness legislation which is proving effective by granting rights to people who are made involuntarily homeless. There is an argument for embedding those provisions as constitutional rights.
A second issue which the constitution could examine could include the future of Trident. Scotland is currently the home of Western Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction. They are based on the River Clyde, within 30 miles of Scotland’s largest city. A constitutional ban on the possession of nuclear weapons would end that obscenity.
And thirdly, is the issue of the use of our armed forces and what constitutional safeguards should be established for the use of Scottish troops. This is of great and recent relevance. In 2003, the Westminster Parliament was effectively misled into sanctioning the illegal invasion of Iraq. We should therefore explore what parliamentary and constitutional safeguards should be established for the use of Scottish forces. . I give these three examples, because the Scottish Government is just one part of the process. Other issues we might want to consider include the use of Scotland’s natural resources and the requirement to ensure that economic growth is sustainable, and Scotland’s responsibilities as a member of the international community.
The act of drawing up a constitution will energise and inspire people from all parties and from across civic Scotland. It will be part of a new settlement between the government and the people. It will be a fitting underpinning for a newly independent nation.
It is worth contrasting the vigour of the constitutional debate in Scotland with the current position down the road at Westminster.
In the UK Parliament, the last two years have seen a further failure to reform the House of Lords, after a century of false starts. It seems clear that change to the voting system for the House of Commons is off the agenda for the foreseeable future. And there are deep disagreements, including within the coalition Government, about the value of a separate UK Bill of Rights, which has been a proxy for the wider European debate, as opposed to being seen as an instrument for constitutional renewal or the protection of the liberties of citizens.
After independence, Scotland will move away from the outdated and profoundly undemocratic Westminster system, which in addition regularly delivers governments with no popular mandate in Scotland.
In an independent Scotland we will move instead to a more transparent, democratic and effective system of government - one designed by the people of Scotland, for the people of Scotland.
In doing so, we will make Scotland’s constitution an early signal of how the people of Scotland will use the powers of independence – to take our place as a good global citizen, to protect and affirm the values we hold dear, and to create a fairer and more prosperous nation.
That is a key part of the “why” for independence for Scotland.
How about a Scottish Constitution Referendum before Indyref
1. Do you wish the Constitution Council's proposals to form the basis of a new draft Constitution? 2. In the new Constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property? 3. Would you like to see provisions in the new Constitution on an established (national) church in Iceland? 4. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution authorising the election of particular individuals to the Althingi more than is the case at present? 5. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution giving equal weight to votes cast in all parts of the country? 6. Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution stating that a certain proportion of the electorate is able to demand that issues are put to a referendum?
"For Labour, a written constitution could enshrine union rights and collective bargaining, and an utterly level playing field for resolving conflicts with management, if that is still what they stand for.
For Conservatives, it could protect Scottish culture and heritage, the market nature of the private economy, and other priorities. Regardless of their position on independence, they should seriously consider entering a dialogue on the content of a constitution in the event that ‘yes’ prevails."
The people of Scotland will decide on independence from the UK in a referendum in the autumn of 2014. At the moment power is split between the Scottish government, in Holyrood, Edinburgh, and the Westminster government in London. But who controls what?
Business and the economy
Holyrood agrees a separate budget to cover all devolved policy areas, based on a three-year funding settlement received from the Treasury.It also sets inward investment and job creation goals for Scotland.Holyrood has powers to vary income tax by 3p above or below UK rate, but the so-called "Tartan Tax" has never been used.Westminster controls fiscal, economic and monetary policy; and government borrowing and lending.Matters relating to weights and measures, telecommunications, the internet and the postal service are controlled by the UK government.So too are consumer and employment rights, including industrial relations.
Culture, science and sport
Holyrood is responsible for funding culture and the arts, mainly through the agency Creative Scotland.The Scottish government also oversaw the successful bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.Science policy is reserved to Westminster, except where it relates directly to schools and universities.The National Lottery, betting and gaming are also reserved matter.Westminster controls the rules relating to broadcasting.
Holyrood is responsible for funding and running the education system in Scotland, from nurseries to universities.Scotland has its own Scottish Qualifications Authority to deal with the school exam system.Although Holyrood manages the budget for Scotland's education system, funding ultimately comes from the UK Treasury's block grant.
Environment and energy
Scotland has great scope on environmental powers, including regulating water quality and setting targets relating to climate change.In the last parliament, MSPs passed what was reputed to be one of the world's most ambitious bids to cut carbon emissions, under the Climate Change Bill.The Scottish government is opposed to new nuclear power stations and, despite the issue being reserved, it can refuse applications under the 1989 Electricity Act.The UK government controls the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity.It also rules on nuclear energy and nuclear installations, plus nuclear safety, security and safeguards.Westminster also oversees the oil and gas industry in relation to ownership; offshore installations and pipelines.
Farming and fisheries
Holyrood has control over rural development, agriculture, forestry, and natural heritage.Scots ministers also aim to influence the UK government in Europe on issues such as fisheries, although they have formal role in international negotiations.The fishing industry in Scotland comprises a significant proportion of the United Kingdom fishing industry.At EU level, member states, in this case the UK, are responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Holyrood is responsible for Scotland's NHS; public health issues such as drink and drug abuse; dentistry; pharmaceutical services and mental health.Scotland led the way in the UK when it banned smoking in public places. MSPs have now agreed to bring in a minimum price per unit of alcohol in efforts to end problem drinking.Some aspects of health policy, such as abortion, surrogacy and embryology, are a matter for the UK government.Human genetics is also an issue for MPs and not MSPs.
Housing and planning
Holyrood has control over the planning system, land use, and building standards in Scotland.It also oversees housing and regeneration projects.Housing and planning powers are distinct in Scotland, as they are in each of the devolved nations.
Justice and home affairs
Scotland has its own legal and justice system and as such legislates on issues to do with police, prisons and the court system.It also controls youth justice and sentencing, legal aid and oversight of the legal profession.Under the Scotland Act (2012) the Scottish government now has control over drink-drive limits, and the regulation of air weapons.MPs retain the power to legislate on immigration, extradition, and emergency powers in Scotland, but many other aspects are devolved.Further powers were devolved following the passing of the Scotland Act (2012), including regulation of air weapons.Data protection, national security and extradition are ones for Westminster.
The Scottish government is responsible for overseeing and funding the work of Scotland's 32 local councils.The current SNP government has had a long-held agreement with councils, giving them more freedom to spend money in return for a council tax freeze.The UK government retains oversight of local government in England.Social services are provided by local councils throughout the UK, but the Treasury ultimately holds the purse strings.
There are several devolved issues under this brief in relation to public transport, roads and rail services.Holyrood has responsibility for ferry services, including those provided by state-funded "lifeline" ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne.Under the Scotland Act (2012) the Scottish government now has control over road speed limits.The laws governing traffic regulations and vehicle excise duty are the preserve of the UK government. Prior to the Scotland Act (2012), speed limits were a matter for Westminster.Regulating the railways and rail transport security is a matter for the UK government.Marine and air transport, including HM Coastguard, comes under Westminster control.
The Scottish government is being given temporary powers enabling it to hold a referendum on independence.The SNP government and the UK coalition signed a deal in October agreeing that the poll would consist of a single yes/no question and would be held before the end of autumn 2014.The Scottish Parliament was set up by an act of Westminster and, as such, decisions on Scotland's constitutional future are reserved.A special agreement, signed by the Scottish and UK governments, now allows for a Scottish independence referendum in autumn 2014, with a single yes/no question.
Defence and foreign affairs
Holyrood has no powers over defence and foreign affairs.Legislative powers and responsibilities for the administration of defence remain with Westminster and the Ministry of Defence.
Immigration and nationality
Holyrood has no powers on the issue of immigration and nationality.Both these areas are wholly reserved to Westminster.
The Scottish government has some say on employment and training matters, but Holyrood has no control over the range or level of benefits.MPs in Westminster set the levels of benefits in Scotland - including child benefit, pensions, tax credits and welfare payments.They also regulate occupational pension schemes and personal pension schemes.
Robin Downie . Alex Salmond used to have a sure political touch, but he has made some serious gaffes over the past year. The most recent, as I see it, is to propose a written constitution. . There might be an occasion to suggest this, once the referendum has been successful, perhaps some time afterwards. But raising it now just seems another bit of constitutional distraction from the pervasive economic anxiety. It will hardly set the pulses racing and convince the undecided voters. Who is going to think 'Yes, this is the Scotland I always wanted – one with a written constitution'? The Tory critic said he did not know whether to laugh or cry. As a hopeful 'Yes' voter, I felt like crying.
And, granted he decided to raise the matter, his suggestions for what might be included are absurd. No nuclear weapons in a Scotland which wants to be a member of NATO, a nuclear organisation? Free education? Is that to include everything from the nursery to postgraduate and adult education? The lawyers will be rubbing their hands at the scope for litigation. These are precisely the wrong sorts of items for a written constitution. But in any case, do we really need a written constitution as well as human rights legislation? It sounds just like another tier of bureaucracy.
Alex Salmond refers to European countries which have a written constitution. But these constitutions mainly pre-date human rights legislation. And perhaps he should consider the problems created in the US by their constitution. The right to carry guns, or whatever it says, was no doubt enshrined in their constitution in totally different circumstances. But it has created an ethos which President Obama is unlikely to change in any significant way, no matter how many children are murdered.
It is not possible to predict what economic or political circumstances will arise in the future and the hands of future politicians should not be tied by what was thought important by previous generations. What we need are inspiring policies for now and not tablets set in stone. When are we going to get the inspiring narrative developed from the basic idea that decisions affecting Scotland should be made in Scotland?
Ian Swanson: Should Scotland adopt a constitution . Alex Salmond has suggested that Scotland should have its own constitution . By Ian Swanson Published on Thursday 24 January 2013 12:00 . AMERICANS have had theirs for more than 200 years, the French base theirs on the battle cry of the revolution and Iceland has just adopted a new one.
Written constitutions spell out a country’s system of government and safeguard citizens’ rights. The UK is unusual in not having such a document. But Alex Salmond found himself under fire when he said an independent Scotland should have one and suggested what might feature in it – namely, a right to free education, a home and a ban on nuclear weapons.
Opponents accused the First Minister of wanting to pack a key national document with SNP policy – although Mr Salmond said he wanted other parties and people outside politics to contribute their ideas, too.
Setting aside the party bickering, the debate about a written constitution offers an opportunity to consider what kind of Scotland people want. So what might be included in a Scottish constitution?
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, is wary of a constitution with commitments to “free this or that”. He says: “There is a case for saying Scotland should be non-nuclear, but beyond that you get into the realm of day-to-day politics and things change.
“You could say that the purpose of taxation is to make public services available to citizens and care should be free at the point of delivery.”
Edinburgh-based human rights lawyer John Scott is enthusiastic about the idea of a written constitution and would like the debate to start now.
Top of his list are safeguards on the justice system and the rights of accused people, which he says are being eroded through measures such as abolishing the need for corroboration and allowing double-jeopardy retrials.
But he says it is “extremely encouraging” Mr Salmond is proposing the inclusion of social and economic rights. “Most constitutions have the civil and legal rights, but although there is a wealth of social, economic and cultural rights in various international conventions, most countries don’t put them in their constitution because they cost money.”
The Rev Sally Foster Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland’s church and society council, says the mark of a nation is how it treats those who are most vulnerable and excluded. “If there was to be a written constitution, its central core should express that priority,” she says.
But the Kirk’s own position could come up for debate. The Church of Scotland is recognised by the state as the national church and the monarch takes a vow to uphold Presbyterian church government. But in the face of falling church attendance and in an age of ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue, some in the Kirk may well argue for its role to be shared more widely with other denominations and religions.
FRANCE’S constitution is based on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was a fundamental document of the French Revolution of 1789-99.
The revolutionaries’ battle cry of “liberty, equality, fraternity” is enshrined in the constitution as the country’s official motto.
The constitution establishes France as a secular and democratic country, deriving its sovereignty from the people.
The latest version, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, shaped by Charles de Gaulle and adopted in 1958, sets out a balance of power between an elected president and an elected parliament.
It also guarantees equal rights for women and men, the right to strike, equal access to education, “the means for a decent existence” for those unable to work and “protection of health, material security, rest and leisure” for all.
VOTERS in Iceland endorsed a new constitution just last year in a bid to give the country a fresh start after the 2008 banking crisis.
A draft constitution was drawn up by a specially-appointed panel of 25 citizens, which used Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the public. It received 3600 comments and 370 suggestions via its website and the package was approved in a referendum.
Amongst other commitments, the new constitution declares all non-privately owned natural resources as “national property”, includes provisions to allow 10 per cent of voters to call a referendum, and limits the terms a president can serve to three.
America’s constitution – with its famous opening “We the people . . .” – was adopted in 1787 by the Constitutional Convention, presided over by George Washington, in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier. After being ratified by the states, the constitution came into effect in 1789.
It sets out a careful system of checks and balances between Congress, the president and the Supreme Court, and places certain limits on the powers of the states.
A batch of ten amendments – known as the Bill of Rights – was added in 1791, guaranteeing basic individual rights such as freedom of assembly, speech and religion, but also affirming the right to bear arms..
Under pressure on Europe and sterling, the first minister has switched focus again on independence: claiming a written constitution answers the 'why' question on leaving the UK (Alex Salmond entices left and lawyers with promise of new rights in a...
In or out of Europe, Scotland needs a written constitution . By John Drummond Chairman of the Constitutional Commission . Sunday 20 January 2013 . WITHOUT parodying conventional wisdom too far, many believe that an independent Scotland would be a state of, by, and for the SNP, with Alex Salmond as its perpetual leader, and little or no room for erstwhile Unionists. . The First Minister's speech to the Foreign Press Association last Tuesday changes that conventional wisdom. By announcing his commitment to a written constitution in an independent Scotland, he made a clear distinction between the state – ie, the permanent democratic institutions of Scotland – and the government that might happen to hold office as a result of any given future election. The referendum is nothing less than a choice between two states.
When it comes to the vote, people will be confronted with two boxes. The one marked "No" is a vote for the old, creaking, unwritten UK constitution. This has allowed the Libor scandal, unethical financial services, Leveson, Iraq and the MPs' expenses scandal; where the electoral system is unfit for purpose; the unelected House of Lords cannot be reformed; and where clerics make laws (an arrangement shared only with Iran).
The one marked "Yes" stands for a good constitution, a civic, democratic, Scotland, where the people are sovereign, rights are protected, and government is both representative and responsible. In that new state, governments will come and go; parliamentary majorities will wax and wane; Labour prime ministers of Scotland will spar with SNP leaders of the opposition. The state will belong not to one person, nor one party, but to the whole community of the realm.
Thanks to Salmond's announcement, it has become sensible to ask what an erstwhile Unionist might want from an independent Scotland. And it is likely the former Unionist and the former Nationalist will both want similar things: the protection of fundamental rights; a fair and free electoral process; an independent judiciary; and a political system in which power can peacefully and democratically be transferred from one government to another.
It might seem strange to attach so much importance to an announcement about a constitution. Constitutions, it is often thought, are for dusty legal geeks, and of only peripheral interest to voters concerned with the practical bread-and-butter issues of everyday life.
Through a process of public meetings, research and publications, the Constitutional Commission has been working to dispel this notion, arguing for a clearer understanding of what is at stake here. We have conducted an important educational drive to make citizens aware of constitutional matters, bringing more light into this heated debate. We contend that nothing has greater bearing on the policies which concern everyday life than the distribution of power in society: who rules; how did they get there; what constraints are placed upon them; who are they accountable to; and how can we get rid of them? These are the key questions that a constitution answers.
The constitution is not only the supreme law that protects rights and democratic processes. It expresses a state's commitment to itself, its citizens, and the rest of humanity. It represents what a nation stands for, and what it will not stand for. Most states believe this is so important that they expressly put it in writing, in one document – capable of being amended, but protected against transitory or unilateral changes by the government of the day.
The adoption of a new constitution will have to wait until after independence, but now is the time for Scots to think about the kind of constitution we need. We must discuss the key institutional provisions – parliament, government, head of state, judiciary, civil service and so on. Luckily, on these matters which actually constitute the organs of self-government, we have good models to work from, and there is unlikely to be major disagreement. This meets the first role of a constitution, which is to provide democratic ground rules and fundamental rights. The Constitutional Commission would like this to be clarified in the forthcoming White Paper and put into an interim constitutional framework from the outset. Interestingly, the Green Party makes much the same argument.
Then, after independence, with the interim constitutional framework in place, a participatory convention can be established, as the Scottish Government suggests, to determine the details of a lasting constitution for approval by the sovereign people.
Everyone, even those unconvinced by independence but desirous of better governance, can get involved in this constitutional conversation: we live here, and if there is to be a Scottish state it ought to be a state that belongs to all of us. We are called to be the founding mothers and fathers of a new and possibly great democracy, and every honest voice, hopeful heart and constructive hand should be encouraged to share in this work.
Writing Scotland: the blueprint for our future nation starts here
The integrity of parliamentary debate under a written Scottish constitution ********************* By Mark McNaught ********************* The recent controversy over a mis-statement by Alex Salmond regarding college funding, his subsequent apology, the ferocious reaction accusing him of mendacity and his critics’ failure to own up to their own mis-statements (or worse) point out fundamental problems in parliamentary debate.
Lies, falsehoods, and smears too often pass without accountability. The accuracy of parliamentary information is crucial to developing sound public policy; bad information makes bad policy.
Without pretending to be able to reinvent human nature, there could be meaningful clauses in a written Scottish constitution which could greatly help the honesty and rectitude of the debate, in addition to bolstering the accuracy and methodological integrity of the debate’s content, which ultimately informs the content of the laws.
One need only observe a typical Prime Minister’s Questions at the Westminster Parliament to see how MP’s can play fast and loose with the truth, throw out a blizzard of immediately unverifiable statistics to ‘win’ their ephemeral talking point, blame the opposition party for all problems during their last term in government, and impugn with impunity their fellow members.
The vast majority of the time, these inaccuracies fly by without any verification, or any mandatory parliamentary means to set the record straight. This is not to deny the positive effect of PMQ’s on accountability and transparency, but to point out what could be drastically improved.
Imagine a Parliament where all statistics presented must be cited, specifying the source to affirm its accuracy, just like any academic article or scholarly book. If it is demonstrated after the debate that a certain statistic is inaccurate, the Presiding Officer should be constitutionally mandated to require the MSP to publicly correct their error in parliament before they are allowed to re-enter debate.
Anyone can make a mistake, and they should be able to correct it without their integrity being challenged.
Any accusation against an MSP or public official, whether in debate or in public statements, must be backed up by the facts. If an accusation is scurrilous, inaccurate, or needlessly insulting, a public apology must be issued before the MSP can re-enter debate or vote on any bills.
The obvious question is who determines the truth in these matters, and how is it applied to ensure the integrity of parliamentary debate? While the details would have to be fairly worked out, it seems evident that a well-informed citizenry, closely following the Scottish parliament on TV, the press, and social media should play a major role.
If an MSP makes a major misstatement in debate or public speech, mechanisms can be developed whereby they can be held accountable. There could be an independent non-partisan committee formed to oversee the statements of MSP’s, and determine whether they warrant a retraction in order to re-enter parliamentary debate.
The sources of information for parliamentary debate also need to be under the greatest scrutiny, if the best public policy outcomes are to be achieved. In the US, there are a plethora of ‘think tanks’, which conduct purportedly scientific studies on economic and social affairs, and seek to have their conclusions accepted by politicians in adopting policy. Frequently, they are funded by interested parties, and their ideology determines the outcome of their studies, in that they have often already determined the conclusion and cherry-pick the data to substantiate it.
A written Scottish constitution could mandate total transparency for any public advocacy group which seeks to influence the debate in an independent Scottish parliament. Any MSP who submits a statistic or poll in parliamentary debate, which could be potentially used in formulating law, must specify exactly where they obtained this piece of data.
Any think tank or PR group, in order for their information to be considered valid in parliamentary debate, must make the entirety of their methodology and data available for public scrutiny. Without in any way abrogating free-speech, the Scottish parliament could promote competition among advocacy groups for influence over policy on the basis of the most accurate information, rather than the catchiest sound-bite or alarming misleading statistic.
Independence provides the scope for Scots to equitably forge the rules of engagement in their politics for years to come. Even if it is constitutionally unprecedented, Scots can create their own reality.
Carpe Diem! ******************* Mark McNaught is a member of the Constitutional Commission, and Associate Professor of US civilisation at the University of Rennes 2 France, and teaches US constitutional law at Sciences-Po Paris.