FALKIRK Greens held a conference recently at which they invited me to speak about our work on a draft Constitution for Scotland and to explain the opportunity our internet platform offers to those who want to propose amendments or discuss content.

After a quick demonstration, I was surprised by one of the questions: “Could you give us 10 bullet points on why we need a written constitution?”

When you are embroiled in a project like this, it’s quite easy to assume there is plenty in the public domain already but, on reflection, perhaps folk do need the reasons in a simple, straightforward form, so here goes.

In any country, while governments come and go, changing their own policies and reversing those of their predecessors, there are some principles and values that need to be safeguarded and kept above such vagaries and fluctuations.

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These are the sort of things that should be enshrined in a constitution, a “higher law”, if you like, that mustn’t be changed at government whim but that need a specific referendum or plebiscite of the people to alter. Countries such as Switzerland have these ballots at all levels of government with no fuss and with some regularity.

You can’t assume we will always have a progressive-feeling SNP in power in an independent Scotland. In fact it’s my personal expectation that the SNP will disappear after independence and we’ll have left, right and centre parties as most countries have, whatever their names will be.

A fresh start, that’s what we could have. The sort of things that we aspire to hold dear, would want to define and want safeguarded in our constitution could be:

  • Defining our sovereignty over defined territory, land sea and air, with the people sovereign and the parliament accountable to the electorate
  • Protecting the right and obligations of citizenship, human rights and rights to education, health and social care, the principle of a minimum wage etc.
  • Setting the status and appointment of the head of state, their role, duties and limitation of powers.
  • Defining the Parliament, its chambers, committees and high-level procedures.
  • Setting the powers of the Parliament; scrutiny; discipline and recall of MPs; referenda on things like EU or Efta membership; how citizens might call for referendums; citizens assemblies.
  • Establishing the civil service; restriction of external influences; NGOs and their powers.
  • Setting the currency, powers of tax-raising and the role of the Central Bank.
  • Ensuring the independence of the judiciary; auditing; control of broadcasting.
  • Controlling the use of natural resources; environmental protection; public access to land and water; prohibition of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
  • Establishing defence, security, emergency services and armed forces.

These are my 10 starting points as requested by the Falkirk Greens. Within these headings you would want the key principles, public values and rights to be made clear.

There are of course many more and that’s what our website is all about, a web platform that allows you to have your say. It’s at www.constitution forscotland.scot While you can peep politely at what we have done, it’s only by registering that you can see others’ comments, make yours and propose changes to the draft and, most importantly, vote for your preferences.

We are not trying to protect our draft and we exist with the sole charitable aim of encouraging consultation and engagement.

If these things are important to us, then we need them enshrined in a constitution. Only a handful of countries in the world don’t have written constitutions and the UK is one of them.

That’s why you can be forgiven for feeling that the UK Government sometimes makes up the rules as it goes along. Let’s ensure Scotland has a written constitution, drafted in everyday language that folk can understand, that can be taught in schools and of which citizens can be proud.

We need to be campaigning all the time and so a constitution should be serving a far more immediate purpose for us. It should be an excellent tool to help answer doorstep questions such as; “how will an independent Scotland be different from now?” and “how would the new country be set up?”.

We will be happy to give a presentation to your local group, too. Because the talk is basically a guided tour of the interactive platform it really lends itself to a Zoom meeting and we have given around 25 of these around the country already.

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www.constitutionforscotland.scot is a registered Scottish charity with the aim of advancing participative democracy within the community of Scotland.

You can read more than 1000 comments across 15 articles and participate in preparing a Scottish constitution.

So why not join in and have your say in how you think an independent Scotland should be governed To interested groups, the Constitution for Scotland team offers a “Guest Speaker” introduction, demonstration and Q&A session within your own Zoom meeting. Please contact info@constitutionforscotland.scot to arrange