EXACTLY 70 years ago the Scottish Covenant was launched. It was a petition to the United Kingdom government to create a home rule Scottish parliament.

It would eventually be signed by two million people. First proposed in 1930, the National Covenant movement reached its peak during the late 1940s and early 1950s and was the brainchild of John MacCormick. The Covenant was written in October 1949 at the Church of Scotland Assembly Halls in Edinburgh.

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It declared: “We, the people of Scotland, declare our belief that reform in the constitution of our country is necessary to secure good government in accordance with our Scottish traditions and to promote the spiritual and economic welfare of our nation.”

Now, 70 years on, a new Declaration for Independence has emerged. Drafted by the writer James Robertson, it offers “guiding principles for a new and better Scotland”:

It is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, now and in the future. In all political deliberations, decisions and actions, their interests should be paramount.

Scotland should be an open and democratic society in which no individual is excluded, oppressed or discriminated against on account of their race, colour, faith, origin or place of birth, physical or mental capacity, sex, sexuality, gender or language.

Scotland should have a written constitution which clearly lays out the rights of its citizens, the country’s system of government and the relationships that exist between government, its instruments and powers and the rights of individual citizens.

Scotland should take its place as an independent country on the world stage, free to join international organisations and alliances for purposes of trade and commerce, and for the protection and care of the planet’s natural environment, without which the human race cannot survive.

Scotland should uphold internationally acknowledged values of non-aggression and self-defence, and should refuse to maintain, stock or use, for itself or on behalf of any other power or government, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction.

There should be clear separation of the powers of the Scottish parliament and government (the executive). The judiciary should be completely independent of government.

Independence will provide an opportunity to review and, where necessary, change the systems of both national and local government, in order to make them more accountable to the people and more beneficial to their needs.

Ownership of land, property and natural resources should be subject to open and democratic scrutiny. The ability of communities, both rural and urban, to own the land in and on which they exist should be enhanced and extended. There should be total transparency in the way property in Scotland is bought, sold or possessed.

Freedom of speech and action, and the freedom to work, create, buy, sell and do business should adhere to principles of environmental and communal sustainability and responsibility. Profit and economic growth should not be pursued at the expense of the wellbeing of the people or their habitat or that of other people or nations.

We affirm the values of care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit in all our dealings. Such values are the foundation stones of a fair, free and open society where all citizens have the opportunities to lead the best, most fulfilling lives they can.

It is our belief that the best option now open to the Scottish people is for Scotland to become an independent country.

The alternative is to accept that Scotland’s fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.

For the first time now the Declaration is being opened up to everyone, a new Covenant for the 21st Century.

The writer AL Kennedy, one of the signatories, has said: “I have always been inspired by Alasdair Gray’s idea that a person or a group of citizens can ‘work as if you were in the early days of a better nation’.

“The recent history of the UK has shown what happens when you have no detailed plans, when the future you want is a late-night angry scribble on a beer mat. As a Scot aware that independence is coming, I feel the concrete plans, support and suggestions that were there before devolution are even more necessary now.”

Ruth Wishart, who was one of the people behind the project, added: “Like many ideas, the Declaration for Independence was the product of a discussion over a good meal with old friends.

“But, later, the more we thought about it, the more we believed the time was right both for a reminder of the 1989 Claim of Right and to put forward the values we thought should be emblematic of Scotland the new European nation state. I’m delighted that everyone is being given the opportunity to join the inaugural signatories.”

Historian Tom Devine has said: “I am not a member of any political party but signed the Declaration because I have come to the conclusion that national self-determination based on the principles outlined in it, coupled with close links to Europe and an effective post-independence working relationship with England, is the best future for the Scottish people.

‘‘Sadly, the Anglo-Scottish Union is no longer fit for purpose, primarily but not only because of the recent emergence of unpalatable political forces south of the Border.

‘‘However, I do not underestimate the massive challenges involved in achieving the goal of harmonious self-determination, not least in convincing many more of our fellow Scots who have a sincere commitment to the Union to embark on a different path.”

It has been signed by 100 writers, artists, musicians and poets and is now going to be available as a mass public petition for anyone who supports the declaration. It’s a non-party political declaration. The background to the statement lays out the thinking behind the project: “Brexit demonstrated that while Scotland remains in the UK, its people’s right to determine their own political future can always be overruled by another country with a population 10 times greater.

‘‘It is abundantly clear that the UK Government considers the desire of a majority of the Scottish people to remain citizens of the EU as irrelevant. In these circumstances, it is completely reasonable that the Scottish people should revisit the question of independence.

“And, given the predicted social and economic damage of Brexit in any form, the Scottish people should be able to vote again as a matter of urgency.

“To deny that right is to deny the fundamental democratic principle of the Claim of Right for Scotland (1989) subsequently endorsed by the Scottish Parliament (in 2012) and by the House of Commons (in 2018). The Scottish people’s right to determine their future should not be frustrated or denied by the UK Government or any other body.”

The 100 original signatories are:

  • Iain Anderson, broadcaster
  • Penny Anderson, writer, journalist and artist
  • Andy Arthur, graphic artist
  • Peter Arnott, playwright
  • Neal Ascherson, journalist and writer
  • Aly Bain, musician
  • Nerea Bello, singer
  • Margaret Bennett, folklorist and singer
  • Stewart Bremner, visual artist
  • Alan Bissett, novelist and playwright
  • Cora Bissett, director, actor
  • Norman Bissell, writer
  • Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law
  • Christine Borland, visual artist
  • Alex Boyd, photographer
  • Stuart Braithwaite, musician
  • Thomas Clark, writer
  • Calum Colvin, visual artist
  • Roddy Buchanan, visual artist
  • Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster
  • Brian Cox, actor
  • Robert Crawford, writer
  • Jessica Danz, composer
  • Sir Tom Devine, Professor Emeritus of Scottish History
  • Lari Don, writer
  • Jenni Fagan, writer
  • Angus Farquhar, artist and musician
  • Malcolm Fraser, architect
  • Brian Gibb, animateur
  • John Gray, film-maker
  • Stephen Greenhorn, playwright
  • George Gunn, writer
  • Joy Hendry, Chapman editor
  • Douglas Henshall, actor
  • Rt. Rev. Richard Holloway, writer and broadcaster
  • Robert Hodgens, musician
  • Jenny Hulse, actress
  • Kirstin Innes, writer
  • Kathleen Jamie, poet and writer
  • Jamie Jauncey, writer
  • Billy Kay, writer and broadcaster
  • Pat Kane, musician
  • A.L. Kennedy, writer
  • Mary Ann Kennedy, musician, writer and broadcaster
  • Hannah Lavery, writer
  • Liz Lochhead, poet, playwright, former Makar
  • Val McDermid, writer
  • Cameron McNeish, writer, climber
  • Murdo Macdonald, Professor Emeritus of History of Scottish Art
  • Jamie MacDougall, singer and broadcaster
  • Lorraine Mackintosh, actor and singer
  • Jim Macintosh, poet
  • Fiona MacInnes, writer and artist
  • Dr. Dolina Maclennan, writer and broadcaster
  • Aonghas MacNeacail, poet and broadcaster
  • Michael Marten, academic/photographer
  • Claire McDougall, writer
  • Mairi McFadyen, writer
  • Darren McGarvey, writer
  • Alastair McIntosh, writer
  • Helen McClory, writer
  • Dr. Ann Matheson, literary historian
  • Karen Matheson, singer
  • Alexander Moffat, artist
  • Momus, musician
  • Eleanor Morton, writer/comedian
  • Jemma Neville, author
  • Andrew O’Hagan, writer
  • Aidan O’Rourke, musician and composer
  • Don Paterson, poet
  • Michael Pedersen, poet
  • Karine Polwart, musician and writer
  • Eddi Reader, singer
  • Tony Reekie, performing arts producer
  • Craig and Charlie Reid, musicians
  • Prof. Alan Riach, poet and academic
  • Elizabeth Rimmer, poet
  • James Robertson, writer
  • Donald Shaw, musician, composer and producer
  • Ross Sinclair, visual artist
  • Chris Silver, writer
  • Donald Smith, storyteller
  • Elaine C. Smith, actor
  • Alan Spence, writer
  • Will Storrar, minister and academic
  • Em Strang, poet
  • Dougie Strang, writer
  • Gerda Stevenson, writer and actor
  • Jim Sutherland, composer and music producer
  • Chris Swan, photographer
  • May Miles Thomas, film director
  • Jamie Wardrop, artist
  • Sheena Wellington, singer
  • Professor Gary West, musician and broadcaster
  • Alan J Willy, film producer
  • Douglas Stuart Wilson, writer and translator
  • Rebecca Wallace, singer-songwriter
  • Ruth Wishart, journalist and broadcaster
  • James Yorkston, musician

As we face the prospect of a Johnson Conservative government and the ongoing rejection of a democratic route to independence we urge anyone to sign the declaration as “the Scottish people’s right to determine their future should not be frustrated or denied by the UK Government or any other body”.