YES for a new Constitution

by Elias Blum

If voting YES simply means replacing the sovereignty of an unrestrained majoritarian Westminster parliament with the sovereignty of an unrestrained majoritarian Holyrood parliament, and the prerogatives of a British crown for the prerogatives of a Scottish crown, I’m not so sure it’s worth the hassle. It’s a gamble. Might pay off. Might not. But why risk it?

All the promises of a better future in an independent Scotland – all the economic promises, all the vaguely optimistic reassurances – really depend on good governance, on having a state that serves the common-weal, and not a state that serves only the corrupt interests of a few. Without a stable, effective democratic order, without clear ground-rules, rights and principles, there’s a danger that we could go from bad to worse. It’s not hard to imagine situations in which post-independence politics, in the absence of clear constitutional rules, becomes a naked power-struggle for access to oil wealth. Why risk it? Better the devil you know.

On the other hand, if independence is about completing a break not only from ‘Westminster rule’, but from the ‘Westminster way of ruling’ – if it will guarantee the sovereignty of the people, if it will deliver a more responsive and accountable form of government, if it will protect and extend our rights as citizens, if it will make Scotland a model of democracy, then it’s worth it. I’d stand and fight and donate and campaign and vote for that.

To use a well-worn analogy, I’m sick of this damp, draughty, tumble-down cobweb infested pile that is ‘Castle Britain’. I’m ready to move out into a nice, modern, Scandinavian-style ‘Scotland Cottage’, with underfloor heating and triple glazing, but I see little point leaving this castle, rotten as it is, for a jerry-built shed in the garden. In other words, if we are going to build a new state, and if we expect people to vote for it, we should do it properly, starting with good constitutional foundations. Otherwise, people might quite rightly wonder why they should vote for change.

That’s why the Constitution – far from being a peripheral thing, is absolutely essential to the YES campaign. It enables a democratic argument for independence to be made. More importantly, it provides the foundation for all the other arguments. We are being asked to vote on the creation of a new state, in which we are told that things will be better. At the very least, we need to get a Constitution in place, right from the outset, that will set the new Scottish state off on a wholesomely democratic path.

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