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?