The UK is unusual in that it does not have a codified (written) constitution. Instead that role is exercised through Acts of Parliaments, conventions and court judgements. At the core of the British constitution is the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty, where Westminster is the single supreme legislative body.

The reality is more complex as power is shared with the EU, Ireland in Northern Ireland, and devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Legislation over the last 40 years had created a complex – but fragile – constitutional ecosystem within the UK. Sovereignty may nominally remain with Westminster, but the realities are the power is exercised at multiple levels.

READ MORE: Landmark poll shows Scots are unhappier with British institutions

This fragile ecosystem has become unstable with Brexit. The UK cannot leave the EU while simultaneously maintaining the constitutional status quo. The UK faces a significant overhaul in its constitutional structures. It is thus pertinent to examine the public’s views of codified constitutions, and possible constitutional futures.

With this in mind, the Scottish Independence Foundation (SIF) has commissioned survey research with examines constitutional literacy, trust in state institutions, and respondents’ views of codified constitutions.

The rigour and stability of the uncodified British constitution rests on the trustworthiness and strength of the state institutions which make law and protect the democratic process. However, only 27% of Scottish survey respondents believed that the House of Commons and the House of Lords did well in fulfilling their role of safeguarding the democratic process. The Supreme Court (46%), the Scottish Parliament (47%) and the European Union (35%) scored much better.

Under these top-line figures are interesting differences. 46% of Yes voters believe the House of Commons is doing a bad job of protecting the democratic process, while only 28% of No voters believe this.

Conversely, only 30% of No voters believe the Scottish Parliament is doing well at protecting the democratic process, while 69% of Yes voters believe this. Interestingly 56% of Remain voters (not all of whom will be Yes voters) believe the Scottish parliament is doing well in protecting the democratic process, while only 34% of Leave voters do. This suggests that constitutional preferences shapes how the Scottish electorate view the Scottish Parliament. Similarly sentiments towards the European Union are shaped by constitutional preferences. 44% of Yes voters and 47% of Remain voters believed the European Union was doing well in safeguarding the democratic process, while 27% of No voters and 16% of Leave voters felt the same way.

Belief in the institutions which underpin the British uncodified constitution is mixed and ambivalent. It is therefore important to examine public attitudes to codified constitutions which would more formally describe – and proscribe – institutional powers.

Only 15% of Scottish respondents believed they had a ‘very clear idea’ of what is meant by a ‘codified constitution’, with around 50% of respondents saying that they did not know what it means. Only 30% of respondents knew that the UK did not have a codified constitution. Few respondents knew if other states around the world had codified constitutions or not. Despite this, a majority (54%) believed their civic education was adequate to make them an informed citizen.

57% of survey participants agreed that civic rights should be enshrined in a single, written, codified constitution. This support was the majority view across the constitutional divides of Yes/No and Remain/Leave. However, Yes (66%) and Remain (62%) voters showed stronger support for this than No (51%) and Leave voters (53%).

It is important to use this time of uncertainty to discuss possible constitutional futures. There are several dimensions to this debate which need to be considered. First, there is no value in proposing a codified constitution when the public are largely unsure of what they are, what they are for, who has them, and why they would benefit their society. Second, there is a need to articulate why not having a codified constitution is a problem.

With low levels of trust in Westminster, it is important to frame failures around this institution. There is work to make sure that the electorate understand that the institutions of an independent Scottish state would not replicate those of the British state, nor operate like the Scottish Parliament within the British state.

Third, there is a need to take abstract discussions around a codified constitution and create a process and product which is more tangible. This should include a Constitutional Convention which includes people from across the constitutional divides to produce an exemplar constitution (or a series of different possible constitutions) for Scotland. The majority of the electorate support adopting a constitution in principal, and this process would make concrete abstract concepts. Having a physical constitutional document in their hands makes the structure and operationalisation of an independent Scottish state more real in their minds.