THERE’S been some discussion this week of the importance of starting now on preparing a draft constitution for an independent Scotland. It’s an excellent idea. One of the greatest problems with the British state, and so one of the reasons Scotland needs independence, is the lack of a written constitution. The British establishment loves the UK’s unwritten constitution, because it effectively gives British governments carte blanche to do exactly as they please.

If the UK had a written constitution, the powers of different parts of government would be explicitly described and circumscribed, that means that Theresa May wouldn’t be able to use the Brexit vote to undermine the devolution settlement in the way that she’s doing.

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A written constitution is at the core of how we go about making an independent Scotland a better country than the Scotland of the UK. A written constitution pins our political class down, it gives them a precise legal framework within which to operate, it spells out the limits to their power. A written constitution specifies where sovereignty lies, that it belongs to the people. A written constitution is the recipe for a better country. It’s up to us to bring the ingredients.

Fundamentally this is about accountability. So many of Scotland’s problems have come about because the lack of a written constitution means that British politicians are not held accountable. It doesn’t matter what we vote for in Scotland, there are never any consequences for failure for a British politician.

The man who most clearly represents that is Michael Forsyth, Thatcher’s man in Scotland. Michael was leader of the Scottish Tories during the 1997 General Election. He presented Scotland with a distinctively Scottish Conservative manifesto that year. The people of this country looked at Forsyth, they looked at his manifesto, they looked at his party, and they voted every single Tory out of power. Democratic rejections do not come more forceful or definitive.

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Yet here we are, 21 years on, and Forsyth sits in the House of Lords, making our laws and influencing government policy. During the EU referendum, Brexiteer Forsyth even had the unmitigated gall to appear in a debate and complain about the injustice of our laws being made by unelected and unaccountable people whom we can’t vote out of office. You don’t say Mikey, you don’t say. With a written constitution, Scotland could specify that politicians can only have power because they’re elected.

I want independence because I don’t trust politicians. We need to keep them close to us so that their backsides are within kicking distance of our feet. When we kick them out of office they will stay out of office until the people vote them back in again and they will not keep influencing our laws because their pals give them power. A written constitution spells out the limits to the powers of politicians. It shackles them and constrains them. That’s got to be a good thing.

By starting the conversation now about the shape of a future written constitution, we are already putting into effect one of the key principles of Scottish independence, that this is a country where the people are sovereign, not the parliament. The creation of a constitution becomes an exercise in participatory democracy, which is exactly what an independent Scotland should be.

This is our country, and we all have a right to a voice in shaping its future and determining the path it takes. That’s the singular difference between an independent Scotland and a UK which regards Westminster as the only sovereign body, because in practice that means that the UK is an elective dictatorship without effective constraints on the power of the government of the day.

There are at least three separate projects at the moment working on draft constitutions for an independent Scotland. All of them are exciting initiatives, and each has a slightly different focus. As well as Elliot Bulmer’s Foundation for Freedom discussion paper which was highlighted in The National this week, there is also the Centre for Scottish Constitutional Studies (CSCS), which is an independent think tank founded several years before the independence referendum of 2014. The CSCS has also been working on its own proposals for a draft Scottish constitution and will be inviting comments and discussion. The CSCS is shortly due to unveil its new website, which promises an exciting and fully interactive process on creating a new Scottish constitution. The site will contain a full copy of the group’s provisional draft constitution for discussion and comment, all 12 articles and 179 sections of it. The CSCS is quite explicit that this is a provisional draft of a constitution, and recognises that the constitution of an independent Scotland can only be drafted properly with the collaboration and input of all groups in Scottish society.

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Last, but by no means least, constitutional scholar Dr Mark McNaught has also been working on draft proposals for a constitution for a Scottish state. McNaught is an American academic of Scots descent who teaches constitutional law at Rennes University in France. He brings to the task years of experience in studying constitutional law, and seeks to incorporate best practice from other nations into the creation of a new Scottish constitution.

All three of these projects are immensely valuable contributions to the independent Scotland that is already starting to come into being. The fundamental reason for independence is that it should be up to the people of Scotland, and no-one else, to decide the path that this country takes. That means that questions like whether Scotland is a republic or a monarchy, or whether Scotland becomes a member of the EU or not, are questions that can only be decided by a sovereign and independent Scotland. But we can’t expect people to take a leap into the complete unknown, and the more certainty that can be provided before Scotland becomes independent, the more likely it is that more people will be comfortable voting for independence.

One way we can do that is to start discussions now on the shape of a future constitution. If nothing else, that will help lay to rest the idiotic myth so commonly propagated by the anti-independence parties that independence is purely an SNP project and that an independent Scotland would be a one-party SNP state. Let’s get started now, and we will be able to see a better Scotland taking shape before our eyes.