First Minister Alex Salmond has assured Scots that Scotland will
have a written constitution post-independence IMAGE: STOCKPIX.EU
Scottish independence: Scots to have written constitution
by Róisín O'Brien
First Minister Alex Salmond has stated that an independent Scotland would have a written constitution, one that would preferably include the right to free education.
In a press release, Salmond underlined the importance of having a written constitution in a newly independent nation, as compared to the UK which only has parts of its constitution written.
Salmond referred to Scotland’s “distinct constitutional tradition”, which states that the people of Scotland are “sovereign” and can decide what form of government best serves their interests.
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This form of government, Salmond said, “stands in contrast to the UK principle that parliament has unlimited sovereignty.”
"That UK tradition is one of the reasons that the UK has no written constitution. That makes the UK highly unusual among Western democracies, and unique within the European Union. That deficiency is a democratic deficit that an independent Scotland should not repeat.”
Mr Salmond stated that, before outlining what the SNP think the constitution should include, the constitution would take into account public opinion, affirming “the values and rights of the people.”
“Since no single party or individual has a monopoly on good ideas; all parties, and all individuals, will be encouraged to contribute.”
Salmond then outlined what he would like to see in the constitution. His first point was people’s rights to social services.
“In Scotland we have a policy of the right to free education in keeping with our history as the nation which pioneered universal education. We also have homelessness legislation which is proving effective by granting rights to people who are made involuntarily homeless. There is an argument for embedding those provisions as constitutional rights.”
Salmond also stated a preference for banning the possession of nuclear weapons, calling them “obscene”, and for an exploration of “parliamentary and constitutional safeguards” for the use of Scottish forces.
He finished by further hoping to tackle issues involving Scotland’s natural resources, the monitoring of sustainable economic growth and its role in the international community.
Responding to Salmond's statement Patrick Harvie, leader of the Scottish Greens, said:
"I welcome the commitment of the First Minister to the need for modern written constitution that could enshrine certain rights, such as the economic and human rights which international treaties set out.
However Mr Harvie stressed the need to work on the constitution before the referendum. He said:
"But the timescale for developing this is crucial. At the moment the suggestion seems to be that this is something we could work on once sovereign powers have been transferred following a Yes vote, but this would imply a dangerous period of constitutional vacuum.
"The First Minister is right to say that the process of writing a constitution should engage all of Scotland, and not just political parties, but for that to happen we should aim to inspire people now with a picture of how other countries such as Iceland have gone about this in a radically democratic way.
"The Scottish Greens strongly support a constitutional bar on nuclear weapons and on nuclear alliances, and given the chance to shape a Scottish constitution we would make that case."
Section 30 order
Salmond’s speech comes at a time when Westminster is finishing its debates about a special section 30 order, which will allow Holyrood to hold a binding independence referendum.
The order was passed through by MPs and is now waiting for the approval of Lords.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has strongly advised that all parties should accept the findings from a watchdog that scrutinises the referendum question.
Mr Robertson, of the SNP, did not promise that the advice would be followed, but nonetheless agreed that listening to the advice would allow a referendum in keeping with “the highest standards possible.”
Of the order, Salmond has stated:
"It shows that although we disagree fundamentally about the merits of independence, the referendum itself will take place with the consent and co-operation of both the UK Government and the Scottish Government.”
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