The Constitution of Scotland

When Scotland becomes independent, it would be a wasted opportunity if the new (or rather, reborn) country didn’t get a written constitution — the UK’s unwritten one has always struck me as a bizarre contraption.

I’m by no means the first person to have had this thought — see amongst others Better Nation and the Constitutional Convention, as well as the SNP’s ten-years-old proposed constitution (PDF). There are also some plans about crowd-sourcing a Scottish Constitution, which I might write more about another day.

Without going into the details of what it should and shouldn’t say, I have a few ideas about the length and scope:

  • It shouldn’t be too long. If it is (like for instance the doomed Constitution for Europe), it will be too specific, which means that it will need revising all the time, and by doing so, it loses its constitutional nature.
  • It shouldn’t be too specific. Apart from the problem with continuous revisions if it is, it also creates problems if external factors require a constitutional change that there might not be a political will to implement.
  • It shouldn’t be too hard to change. If it is, it will start to be reinterpreted, with the result that nobody really understands what it means. For instance, the Danish Constitution is almost impossible to change (it was last changed in 1953), and when it mentions the king, it means either the queen, the prime minister or the government, depending on the context, which isn’t ideal.
  • It should be easy to understand. Although many laws are by nature highly complex, the constitution should be a straightforward text that school children could learn and discuss at school.
  • It should make us proud. Like the Declaration of Arbroath and other such documents through the ages, a good constitution should be an inspiring document that will inspire its readers centuries for now.

If all of this seems a bit daunting, at least there are plenty of existing constitutional documents from all over the world than can be used as a basis, so it should be doable.

A reply to Patrick Harvie

Patrick Harvie (Green Party)
Originally uploaded by alf.melin

According to The Scotsman, Patrick Harvie (Green MSP) has a problem with the SNP’s attempts to woo centrist voters:

However, Mr Harvie fears the efforts to woo centre-ground voters could alienate many on the Left.

“The task of those who see the opportunity of independence is to inspire hope that a Yes vote will lead to the radical change we consider necessary and desirable,” he said in his submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the 2014 vote.

“The current ‘universalist’ approach risks turning what should be a transformational opportunity into a promise of middle-of-the-road blandness, only under a different flag. “I can’t ask people to vote for that. This debate needs to offer more.”

I can totally relate to this, but I also think it’s misplaced.

The real reason to support independence is to allow us to make our own decisions in Scotland. However, we can’t make those decisions in advance — that would be counting our chickens before they hatch.

Once independence has been achieved, I will be delighted to join Patrick Harvie and many others in the fight for ending the monarchy in Scotland, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll win that fight. However, without independence Westminster will just veto it.

Once independence has been achieved, there will be a huge argument whether Scotland should be part of NATO (like England, Norway and Denmark), or more strictly neutral (like Ireland, Sweden and Finland), and I haven’t decided yet which side I’m on. However, without independence Westminster will just keep Scotland inside NATO (and keep the atomic bombs up here for good measure).

Once independence has been achieved, we’ll have to discuss a whole range of issues that it would be futile to discuss at the moment because Westminster has the final word.

So Patrick Harvie shouldn’t ask his voters to vote for middle-of-the-road blandness à l’Écossaise; he should ask his voters to vote for an independent Scotland so that the questions that are most important to us can be decided in Scotland by the people living here, and the day after Scotland has voted Yes, he should then start changing Scotland into a better nation.

BBC’s bias

Originally uploaded by baaker2009

The SNP did really well in Thursday’s local elections, gaining 61 extra councillors (compared to 46 extra for Labour), with these gains mainly coming from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

East Renfrewshire is actually quite typical in this regard: Labour 8 (+1), SNP 4 (+1), Tories 6 (-1), LibDems 0 (-1), Independents 2 (n/c).

However, if you’ve been watching the BBC, you’d think the SNP actually had a bad election. To achieve this negative image, they’ve had to doctor the figures, so instead of comparing the number of seats with the last election — as is the norm for reporting elections — they’ve decided to to compare the number of seats with the status quo ante bellum, which helps Labour immensely because they were hit by numerous defections of councillors to the SNP over the past few years.

According to the BBC, Labour therefore gained 58 seats compared to 57 seats to the SNP, and they then turn this into a story about Labour doing significantly better than the SNP. Of course they also conveniently focus more on these figures than on the absolute numbers, which are 424 SNP councillors compared to 394 Labour ones.

To reinforce their version of events, the BBC have been focusing strongly on Glasgow (where the SNP admittedly were too ambitious and thus didn’t gain quite as many seats as hoped, increasing their number of councillors “only” from 22 to 27), and been ignoring the parts of the country where the SNP had an excellent election, such as Dundee, which now has an absolute SNP majority.

The BBC’s biased reporting is not just affecting the SNP, but also the other pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens. They increased their number of councillors from 8 to 14, but this has been more or less ignored by the BBC.

This anti-independence bias has to stop now! The BBC are supposed to be impartial, and surely that should apply in Scotland as well as in England.