Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
An extract from the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln

THERE is an old saying in business when referring to events that reveal how badly a company is actually doing, contrary to previous appearances: “You don’t know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out.”

Well, the Brexit tide now has fully revealed the extent to which the UK has been swimming naked constitutionally.

The colossal failures in the system of UK governance are such that many people have lost faith in politicians and the political process.

More and more people are blaming the hugely flawed first-past-the-post electoral system and there are increasing calls for proportional representation at Westminster.

It has been estimated that the problems created by Brexit may take more than a decade to resolve.

One part of this resolution may be the fracturing of the two “main” political parties, previously kept unhappily together by the mechanics of first-past-the-post, into a more natural four parties, two of the right and two of the left. But this and other vital changes may take many years if the torpid pace of Westminster reform is a guide.

We now learn that a putative prime minister, Boris Johnson, stands ready to apply his unique brand of ethical standards to the operation of the British state.

But I hear you cry: “Scotland has a way of avoiding all this misery. We can become independent!”

Maybe, but independence is no guarantee that things will turn out well. Many countries have become independent only to fall into authoritarianism, corruption and misrule. Often, they put all their efforts into independence and had little thought for how they would govern themselves democratically afterwards.

In the words of a senior Kenyan politician: “In 1963, we wanted independence. We did not think about building institutions of good governance. We just thought independence was the main thing, and we’d worry about all this constitutional business later.

‘‘So, we became independent and the KANU party took office, closed down the democratic space and centralised power until we became a one-party dictatorship.”

Of course, Scotland is starting from a much more favourable position in terms of democratic experience and overall development than Kenya. Yet the point stands.

Even today, successes are rarer than failures. The Economist’s Democracy Index of 2012 (not a flawless measure, but a reasonable one for these purposes) identified just 25 “full democracies” out of 167 states, or 15% of the total number, containing 11.3% of the world’s population.

A further 54 countries, containing 37.2% of the world’s population, were classified as “flawed democracies”, meaning that while competitive elections took place, sound democratic governance was hampered by human rights abuses, the exclusion of minorities, the weakness of the rule of law, endemic corruption, political violence or other failings.

The sobering fact is that many newly independent countries have gone from bad to worse because they failed to consolidate stable democratic institutions and failed to build an effective state that reflects all of society, responds to public needs and respects human rights.

If independence happens, the Scottish state has to be a country for all its citizens, not just for those who voted for independence. In the event of independence we will all, “yes”, “no”, or “undecided” alike, have a common interest in Scotland being a functioning democracy.

We will all have an interest in stable and legitimate institutions, in freedom of political debate and opposition, in free elections, and in the honest and competent administration of public affairs.

We will all have a common interest in creating and sustaining a Scottish state that is well-governed; one that represents all the people of Scotland, that protects our legal, civil, political rights, and that serves the common good of the country through inclusive, honest and effective democratic processes.

Those principles should unite rather than divide us.

The first requirement for a Scottish Constitution, therefore, is that it be an inclusive instrument. It should ensure that Scotland is a res publica, a state where power is exercised publicly, by public deliberation and in the public interest, and is not monopolised by any individual, section, party or faction.

The constitution ought to be a guarantee to all citizens that the Scottish state is a country in which they all have a stake and a say, and that they 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.

Westminster is dysfunctional. We can do so much better, but we need to prepare. Now.