GEORGE Kerevan’s warning that democracy is in a perilous state is both timely and necessary and he is correct to identify a deep malaise within our society eating away at the roots of democratic participation and inclusiveness (Democracy is not quite dead but we have to act if it is to be saved, May 20).

That malaise has two fundamental causes: the first-past-the-post electoral system and the dominant free-market economic system, both of which are exclusionary, elitist, and encouraging of authoritarian politics. In any discussion of a constitutional settlement for an independent Scotland, an analysis of the drivers of the political apathy and exclusion that bedevil the UK must take precedence, because apathy and exclusion are neither accidental nor unforeseen consequences, but deliberate products of Westminster policy.

First-past-the-post and the free market are exclusionary because they exclude more people than they include and serve particular interests to the exclusion of all others. That is the Westminster way. The whole rationale of the free market is that in order for the dominant economic interests – bankers, corporations etc – to be free, then the majority of the people must lose their freedoms, as freedom is not an infinite resource and the freedoms and rights of groups such as working people or those on benefits are constraints on the freedom of the elite to do as they please.

This then requires the removal of traditional rights from workers – overtime, pensions, holiday pay etc – and the removal or diminution of benefits for the poor, as those are seen as constraints on the freedom of the elite to operate as they see fit. Thus large sections of the people are systematically excluded from decision-making and meaningful participation at all levels of social life. This was the rationale behind the war against the trades unions and local government, compounded by an electoral system that excludes the majority of votes cast in order to serve the interests of the two dominant parties, resulting in what Lord Hailsham described as a rotating dictatorship.

Systematically excluded from meaningful political and economic participation, and impotent to affect any kind of meaningful decision-making at work, in the market and the polling booth, whole sections of the electorate have simply given up and are turning to charlatans and gangsters posing as messiahs.

Thus, the free-marketeers, utilising the electoral system, have successfully waged war against local government, the trades unions, the public sector in the widest sense and all institutions that sought to hold them to account, such as the European Courts of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. In modern Britain, rights only belong to the elite and those porcine elements in the Westminster pigsty. Thus, the concept of the free market and the British electoral system are abominable frauds designed to exclude the majority of the populace from participation whilst allowing a minority grouping to loot the national treasury at their will. This is the real legacy of the Blessed Margaret.

Any edifice is only as strong as its foundations and the foundations of the British state are crumbling before our eyes. This must be the principal lesson in the design of any future constitutional settlement for an independent Scotland. Whilst it is obvious that a Scottish state and constitution must be built on clear ethical principles underpinned by a strong moral compass, it is as important, if not more, that it is founded on strong political principles.

A constitution is a fine thing, but it should be a practical and workable document and not a theoretical maybes-aye-and-maybes-no full of fine ethical principles but quite impotent when faced with reality.

Peter Kerr