THE United Kingdom is not a normal country in several respects but one in particular is its lack of a formal codified constitution. Only New Zealand and Israel share this distinction.

Constitutions are important in that they firmly outline the reach of government and define what each level of the Government is responsible for and, crucially, what it cannot do.

READ MORE: Drawing up the charter for an independent Scotland

As an example, a good proportion of the current debate over Brexit and how it affects Scotland stems from the fact that whilst there was a firm “vow” to make the Scottish Parliament permanent and to ensure that the UK Government would never overrule it on devolved matters, the lack of any kind of constitutional protections on these matters means that, in practice, Westminster remains sovereign. It is now threatening to renege on that vow in the name of unilaterally creating a “UK-wide framework” on areas such as trade and fishing.

As Scotland looks towards its independence it must begin to consider what its own codified constitution would look like and what would be included in it.

This discussion is something that would have to be started very quickly after a successful independence referendum, otherwise there is the risk that the structures of the country will be written by just a few select people, or by political parties that would end up writing it for their own benefit.

In our paper by noted constitutional expert Elliot Bulmer, we have laid out the principles by which the writing of a constitution should take place. It must be inclusive – all citizens, not just a few elites and not just Yes voters, should have a stake in creating our new country.

It should invoke “popular sovereignty” – every right, liberty, democratic principle and institution should be backed by a popular majority and not simply created or removed at the whim of Parliament. And it should provide reassurance – it should provide a floor and a foundation to our human rights and democratic processes.

Finally, the writing of a constitution would be an act of recognition – it would be a clear statement of our identity as an independent country on the world stage.

All this said, it has been noted the act of creating a constitution is as important (if not more so) than the eventual document. The constitution should be written after a widespread public consultation and exercise in citizen engagement.

The importance of this inclusion may not be entirely obvious but let’s look at just one example and ask just one question which most constitutions answer in their first few lines: what should we call our independent country?

That seems like a straight forward question, doesn’t it? It seems like it has an obvious answer. But does it?

We could return the country to its pre-1707 name of The Kingdom of Scotland, which would provide a sense of continuity with that old country but would also explicitly state that the head of state of Scotland would take the form of a monarchy (whether it would take the form of the current dynasty or some other). Whilst this may be reassuring to some, it may also act as a barrier to those who seek a more democratic approach to running our country.

Similarly, answering the question by calling our country “The Republic of Scotland” may be controversial for the exact obverse reason and would be explicitly accepting the UK’s stated position that the Scotland of 1707 was legally “extinguished” by the Treaty of Union – though Common Weal’s 2016 paper Claiming Scotland’s Assets points out that this position would be to Scotland’s benefit regarding the allocation of debt and assets.

A third option on the name of our country would be to take the position of a countries such as Canada and Ireland and forego the preamble and description in our formal name and simply call ourselves “Scotland”.

Again, it would be accepting that are going to be a “new” country, but it would allow us to then hold the discussion about the form and role for our head of state in a more objective light.

That is just one of the questions that will form the constitutional debate, but hopefully it gives a flavour of what could be a positive and engaging exercise in identity forming. Whilst the formal discussion is best held off until after an independence referendum so as to maximise engagement from all sides of the independence campaign, there’s certainly nothing stopping Yes voters looking ahead to that and starting an informal discussion amongst ourselves.

I encourage you, the reader, to download our policy paper, read through the principles and our example constitution and then let us know what you think the constitution of an independent Scotland should say.

Craig Dalzell is the head of policy and research at Common Weal