ONE of the incredibly refreshing things about Scottish politics is that so many people are engaged in debating the vision of what Scotland should be.

We’ve seen Kate Forbes doing this in the last week. Caroline Lucas MP obviously cannot resist the appeal of that debate and is coming to take part in it this autumn. But what is really fascinating is just how many people there are dedicating their time to imagining a better future for Scotland.

I highlight this for good reasons. First, because this is so unusual. Vision is a very rare commodity in politics in far too many countries, and I have been to a lot over the last decade. Second, it is because it is only those inclined to independence who seem to engage in this debate, which is something I have by and large noticed in Wales as well.

And third, it adds a vibrancy to the whole political arena which highlights just how different Scotland is when compared to the whole depressing political landscape of England where vision disappeared from politics when Jeremy Corbyn (love him or hate him) departed the scene, rare exceptions like Caroline Lucas apart.

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Over time I have taken part in many of these debates. Given my inclinations most of my involvement has been on issues like tax, the Scottish currency and how an independent Scotland might be funded. Important as all those things are, there is in my opinion something more important still, which is determining what the fundamental ethos of the country might be.

It’s my instinct from everything that I have learned about Scotland (since I am not a Scot) that it has a fundamentally different ethos to England. I think it is this fact that drives the independence debate. It is also this fact that the vast majority of people in England (almost none of whom have ever stepped foot in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) do not understand.

English exceptionalism lets them think that people in each of those places are the same as them. And the simple fact is that they are not, as my experience has long suggested.

English exceptionalism is based on a number of characteristics that, by and large, it seems Scotland does not share. The English approach is to assume superiority. They therefore deny the equality of people.

English thinking is also now based on the core ideas of free market economics, of which by far the most powerful are that greed is good and the winner should have the right to enjoy their gains without social obligation arising. As a result, inequality is widely tolerated and is even seen by some as a sign of success.The National: Margaret Thatcher's political ideology still has a stranglehold on England - but Scotland can set itself freeMargaret Thatcher's political ideology still has a stranglehold on England - but Scotland can set itself free

There is also a widespread belief in Margaret Thatcher’s assertion that there is no such thing as society. As a result, government is despised, tax is avoided and evaded and those who need the support of the state are seen as a burden.

And when it comes to government itself, the English idea is that their politicians should look to the market to provide solutions and get out of those markets’ way when it comes to delivery, whether the market can actually deliver or not. That is why some English water companies are now looking as though they might collapse into chaos.

I have never got the impression that Scotland shares these views. That might just say that I choose my Scottish friends with care. Or it might be that I am right. Either way, it strikes me that Scotland needs to make this clear.

We talk of constitutions for Scotland, what structures for government it might need, and much else. But shouldn’t those wanting an independent Scotland also agree on what the principles on which the independent country will be built might be?

A while ago I outlined 10 propositions that I thought might underpin any state I really wanted to live in. I am sure that there are issues in them that will not be agreed by all.

SOME might think I have missed things out. But they seem worth sharing because it seems to me that a statement of this sort could provide the foundation for much else that has to be decided upon before Scotland can be independent. So, for what it’s worth, these are my suggestions for the principles that should underpin a state of the sort I hope Scotland wants to be.

Proposition one

THE state shall recognise each individual within it as having equal rights. This includes the right to choose a government that fairly reflect the views of all within its jurisdiction, in whose individual and collective best interests any government shall be tasked to act, seeking to reconcile these claims as best it is able.

Proposition two

The state will create law to reflect the ethics of the society within its jurisdiction as determined by its properly elected government. In pursuit of this goal the state will:

  • Require that any government within its jurisdiction and those who act on its instructions shall abide by these principles
  • Provide mechanisms to hold a government to account if it does not adhere to these principles, including by the operation of an independent judicial system capable of demanding remedy for failure to do so.
  • Provide for freedom of speech unless it promotes harm towards or hatred of another person
  • Secure the availability of diverse news media that reflects the range of opinion within its jurisdiction

Proposition three

The state will uphold the rule of law and provide access to all citizens who wish to seek remedy under that law, whatever their means.

Proposition four

The state will maintain peace within its jurisdiction and seek to secure peace internationally.

Proposition five

The state will uphold the right to own and trade property, whilst ensuring that its own property rights are respected and upheld.

Proposition six

The state will eliminate poverty, whatever its cause, and ensure a fair allocation of resources so that all might participate fully within society.

In pursuit of this goal, a state will seek to provide appropriately rewarded work for all who want it and education throughout life to all who might wish for it and can benefit from it.

Proposition seven

The state will protect each person from harm whether that be from:

  • Physical risk
  • Discrimination
  • Preventable disease or illness

Proposition eight

The state shall secure those resources that it needs to fulfil its obligations, in pursuit of which it shall:

  • Manage the macroeconomy of its jurisdiction, including its currency, currency creation, taxation and deposit taking to provide sufficient economic stability to achieve this goal
  • Limit the power of those who seek to exploit corporations or positions reflecting artificial competitive advantage, including through the exercise of monopoly power within marketplaces
  • Regulate terms of exchange, trade and sharing to promote fairness
  • Encourage the free movement of people and ideas within and beyond its jurisdiction.

Proposition nine

The state shall recognise the limitations that the availability of natural resources imposes upon it, managing its affairs to ensure future generations enjoy the opportunities available to those currently alive.

Proposition 10

These propositions shall be interpreted within the frameworkof the UN Declaration of Human Rights.