SCOTLAND could have a written constitution and elected head of state within three to five years of independence, the First Minister has said.

Launching the fourth white paper in the Building a New Scotland series on Monday morning, Humza Yousaf told a press conference in Glasgow that the “radical” plans would protect workers’ rights to strike and guarantee healthcare that is “free at the point of need”.

Yousaf said he would also want a new constitution to rule out Scotland being a home for nuclear weapons - and remove them from HM Clyde Naval Base at Faslane, Helensburgh.

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The white paper also states that Scotland would retain King Charles as Head of State “so long as the people of Scotland desired it”, and a constitutional convention would be established to discuss whether the people would prefer an elected representative. 

Yousaf was joined by Deputy First Minister Shona Robison and Minister for Independence, Jamie Hepburn, at the press conference at the Scottish Government's offices in Glasgow. 

In the event that Scotland votes to become an independent country, an interim constitution would come into effect on day one, the FM explained.

This would provide the “stability and clarity” needed for a new nation, and the document insists that the people of Scotland would be consulted on what the interim constitution would contain.

Following independence, the Scottish Government would establish a “legally mandated” constitutional convention to thrash out the details of a full document enshrining rights for Scottish citizens.

The National:

First Minister, centre, with Jamie Hepburn (left) and Shona Robison (right)

Once a draft constitution is drawn up it would then be “considered” by the Scottish Parliament, but will only come into force through a referendum.

The paper, titled Creating a Modern Constitution for an Independent Scotland, details a variety of areas a written constitution would cover from human rights and equality, citizenship and values, to island communities, languages and defence.

“In the context of the Westminster system, these proposals do sound radical,” the First Minister told the press conference.

“We are, after all, planning to involve the entire country in discussions about fundamental constitutional change.

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“But when you look beyond Westminster, you can see that our proposals are laden with steps that have been taken by nations right across the world.

“In the last 20 years, several countries have directly involved their citizens in designing or indeed, amending their constitution.”

The FM pointed out that Westminster does not have a written constitution, making the country a “global outlier”, and warned that the UK Government could abolish the Scottish Parliament “through nothing other than a simple majority vote”.

Yousaf added: “That’s not an abstract concept - it is worth remembering the UK Government is already seriously considering the repeal of the Human Rights Act, one of the most significant achievements of any UK Parliament in the last 30 years.

The National:

“In future, Westminster sovereignty could even allow the UK Parliament to repeal devolution through nothing other than a simple majority vote.”

“In the Scottish Government’s view, it should also include provisions stating very clearly and explicitly that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons,” the FM added.

The First Minister insisted the “vision” in the Scottish Government paper “contrasts quite starkly” with Westminster, where he said “rights are being systematically eroded”.

Asked about the timeline for a full constitution following independence at a print briefing following the press conference, the FM told The National: “First of all, you have the interim constitution in place from day one, and then of course, have a legally mandated constitutional convention.

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“We'll look at a permanent written constitution in the future.

“I think we set out in the paper we expect there to be a permanent written constitution put to the people, not until at least three to five years in an independent Scotland.

“That’s generally the timeframe that we work towards.

“At the same time, I can only tell you what I would want my vision is of a constitutional convention and maybe once one is set up, which will of course be a grassroots, bottom-up endeavour, there may be other issues that the constitutional convention want to look at above and beyond what I've denoted in the paper.”

The white paper states that "independence itself would not result in a change to the Head of State" and would initially remain a constitutional monarchy.

"The Scottish Government believes that the Constitutional Convention is the appropriate place to consider other models for the head of state of an independent country," the document adds. 

The FM was also asked if he, as a republican, would prefer to have an elected head of state post-independence and told journalists: “I think that's not a discussion that I would like to preempt in terms of a constitutional convention, but that is just one issue they should consider.

“They should consider other things like for example, should the Scottish Parliament continue to be a unicameral parliament? Should it be a bicameral parliament?

“Should there be other issues that it should discuss and debate?

“I absolutely think so, and one of those should be whether or not continuing with a constitutional monarchy is appropriate or whether there should be an elected Head of State.”