LAST Tuesday the Scottish Parliament, voting by 64 to 47, endorsed the Scottish Government’s paper, “Building a New Scotland: The Constitution of an Independent Country”.

In so doing, the Parliament officially declared in favour of Scotland adopting a written constitution – a principle that has long been part of SNP policy, but is now Scottish Government policy and national policy.

The reasons why this is a good thing – no, more than that, a necessary thing – have been rehearsed many times in this column. Without a clear constitutional foundation, an ­independent Scotland would not be able to reassure its own citizens that their rights are secure.

Without a written constitution, ­everything would be shaky and uncertain; all our ­institutions would depend upon the goodwill and self-restraint of those in power.

We have seen how that works out, and the answer is “not very well”.

READ MORE: Key points you need to know about new independence paper

It produces a politics driven by ­short-term partisan expediency rather than by enduring principles.

Getting the constitution right, therefore, is crucial to building a stable, viable and ­well-functioning Scottish state. The fact that the Scottish Government has now given this ­policy the attention it deserves is a very ­welcome sign that the SNP, under new leadership, is taking independence – as a state-building project – ­seriously again.

Independence is not about replacing one government with another, as happens in a general election.

It is about replacing one state with another: an oligarchic, exclusionary, ­ill-constituted, rights-violating, British state with a democratic, inclusive, well-constituted, rights-respecting, Scottish state.

The National: Jamie Hepburn, Humza Yousaf and Shona RobisonJamie Hepburn, Humza Yousaf and Shona Robison (Image: PA)

It is heartening also to see that the Scottish Government has taken up the proposal for a two-stage constitution-building process: first an interim constitution, which would come into ­effect on independence day so that there is no dangerous gap, and then a permanent ­constitution, to be adopted by an inclusive ­process after independence.

We can rest assured that the principles ­guiding the development of the interim ­constitution are sound. Now that those principles have secured parliamentary backing, we must now proceed to translate them into the text of a draft interim constitution.

As we move forward, a few things should be borne in mind

The first is that a constitution provides the common ground and the overall structure of a political process. While commitments to the NHS and nuclear disarmament capture headlines – and should probably be ­included – the constitution is not the place to put in every policy preference, especially on those things where the public is deeply divided.

It has to be a constitution for everyone, not just those who are pro-independence – part of its remit is to make No voters feel reassured that an independent Scotland is a place they can still call home.

The second is not to be afraid of detail and specificity

Just because a constitution is ­“interim” does not mean it should skimp on ­essential details.

It must be sufficiently ­complete and robust to enable the state to function and for democracy to be maintained during a ­transitional period that could last several years. Attention must be paid to the boring but important undergirding of Scottish state, like setting up an Electoral Commission and Civil Service Commission.

The more detail goes in, the less there is to argue about later.

The third is that it is not forever

The interim constitution envisages its own replacement by a permanent constitution in due course. So if you want a republic, or a second chamber, or other major changes to the institutional structure, that is the time and place to argue for it.

Fourthly, the interim constitution should be capable of amendment

But not be too easy to change. The proposal that it can only be ­amended by a two-thirds majority vote of the Scottish Parliament seems reasonable.

This rule would give the major opposition parties a veto over changes to the interim constitution. Without this amendment rule, a constitution would offer no protection or certainty, since any post-independence government with a working majority could change it to suit itself.

Fifthly, the world is watching

As well as ­reassuring domestic audiences that their ­democracy is secure, the interim ­constitution must also reassure foreign audiences that an independent Scotland is going to be a safe ­investment and trustworthy European partner.

If we want a closer relationship with Europe, and eventual re-entry into the single market, we need a constitution that meets international democratic norms.

READ MORE: Written constitution is a welcome reminder of international norms

The process of designing the interim ­constitution, now that its principles have been accepted, is largely a technical process; the text has to be coherent and workable. But it is also a deliberative process, which must produce an interim constitution reflecting the consent and consensus of as many as possible.

This will call for some forbearance and compromise.

We have to avoid splitting over peripheral issues, and focus always on the essentials: building a robust and resilient democratic constitution to get us through the first years of independence.