IN recent columns we have looked at the conspicuous inadequacies of the British constitution. These deficiencies are now revealed to be so great that the UK has become an international laughing stock.

For many, the British Constitution is now an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms, like military intelligence or airline food.

Unsurprisingly, independence enthusiasts are desperate to leave this omnishambles behind.

But this begs the question raised by a number of readers: what will replace it?

Let’s begin with the purpose of a constitution. Most experts define it as a written fundamental law, at the apex of the legal and political systems, which is superior to ordinary Acts of Parliament.

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It defines the State, proclaims the values and principles on which the State is based; establishes and regulates public institutions; protects the rights of citizens and provides an overarching legal framework for the conduct of politics.

Simply put, a constitution spells out what a country stands for; and what it will not stand for.

As Katrin Oddsdottir, member of the Constitutional Council, Iceland, put it: “It’s part of being a real, independent nation, to have your own social contract.

“Why would you be a society or a nation if you can’t agree upon your own foundational law?”

In many ways, a constitution is the basic building block of a state or country. Imagine a new building. It starts with the foundations. Get those right and the building stands. Get it wrong and the building is unlikely to endure.

This is enormously important for a new state. And in constitutional terms an independent Scotland will be a new state. Of course, it has a rich history of constitutional statements such as the Declaration of Arbroath and the Claim of Right. Both express a strong moral conviction. But a new state needs more.

For example, a new Scotland will need to define its priorities as well as its purpose. In his paper, Foundations for Freedom*, leading international constitution expert Dr Elliot Bulmer asserts there are four major priorities: inclusion, popular sovereignty, reassurance and recognition.

l Inclusion: Any new Scottish state ought to be a country for all its citizens, not just those who voted for independence. In the event of independence we will all – “yes”, “no” and “undecided” alike – have a common interest in Scotland being a functioning democracy.

The constitution should be a guarantee to all citizens that the Scottish state is a country in which they have a stake and a say – and can enjoy equal rights of citizenship and belonging.

Anything less than an inclusive constitution would betray the principles of civic, democratic nationalism that the Scottish independence movement has espoused since its inception.

l Popular sovereignty: The United Kingdom operates on the basis of parliamentary sovereignty – there is no domestic law superior to an Act of Parliament, and no distinction, in authority or in enacting process, between statutes of a “constitutional” nature and other statutes.

Parliamentary sovereignty places every right, every liberty, every democratic principle, every institution (including the Scottish Parliament) at the mercy of any government with a working majority.

In contrast to this, the Scottish independence movement has always made popular sovereignty its cornerstone.

Both the SNP’s 2002 draft constitution and the Scottish Government’s draft 2014 interim constitution proclaim popular sovereignty as the foundation of Scotland’s legal and political order.

What is popular sovereignty? At its most basic, popular sovereignty means not only the right of the people, through democratic processes, to choose, scrutinise, influence and remove their governments, but also to have a final and decisive say on the form of government itself.

In other words, matters of fundamental constitutional importance must be decided by the people themselves and not left to the mercy of an incumbent parliamentary majority.

l Reassurance: A primary task of a constitution is to provide clarity, protection and reassurance: clarity on how the state will function and on what its legal-institutional basis will be, protection for democratic processes and human rights and reassurance public authorities will operate in a non-discriminatory and non-partisan way.

A draft or interim constitution is also an ideal way to demonstrate to those presently sceptical or hostile to a new state that their interests will be safeguarded after Independence Day.

If available soon, an interim constitution could be used to help convince these groups that independence is an opportunity rather than a threat. Moreover, it forces opponents of independence to defend the present shambolic constitutional set-up.

l Recognition: A written democratic constitution is necessary for the international acceptability of Scotland. Having a written constitution is the norm throughout Europe and most of the rest of the world (New Zealand and Israel being the only democratic exceptions).

A written constitution for Scotland is a way of showing – to an international audience – that Scotland is serious about a commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and, in consequence, that the country is not a “pariah state”.

This is especially important in the eyes of institutional gatekeepers such as the Venice Commission, the Commonwealth and the European Union, whose good estimation of Scotland would be vital to making a success of independence.

Keep your questions coming. We aim to cover your points in this unique column.

*Foundations of Freedom – Common Weal