I don’t know how I’m going to vote in autumn 2014. And so far, neither campaign has impressed me. I don’t trust Alex Salmond: I don’t trust Alistair Darling. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know why. I don’t trust the Conservatives or their faithful puppy-pack of LibDems: I’m not a nationalist, either for the UK or for Scotland. I’m not sold on flag-waving, and I don’t think I’m particularly patriotic.
But the SNP have a democratic mandate to hold a referendum on independence in autumn 2014 and I’ve never stepped back from voting in an election in my entire life – I’ve never spoiled a ballot, though I’ve been tempted more than once: I’ve always tried to figure out who I want to vote for, or at least, who I want to vote against.
And this is a big thing and I kind of envy the people who have made up their minds, who know which way they’re going to vote, and who can campaign wholeheartedly for their chosen cause – are we staying in the UK, are we going to become independent – without the host of doubts I have about either answer.
(I’m unalterably opposed to devomax / devoplus, by the way, and quite prepared to campaign wholeheartedly against that.)
“We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth: the people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland.” Alex Salmond, 25th May
“If we decide to leave the United Kingdom, there is no way back. It is like asking us to buy a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination…” Alistair Darling, 25th June
I agree with both of them.
That’s my problem.
On Thursday night I went to A state fit for the 21st Century, organised by the Constitutional Commission, sponsored by Marco Biagi (who unfortunately couldn’t make it that evening) and for the first time in six months found myself in a roomful of people who were talking about independence and devolution and Scotland in a way I could agree with. I’ve been trying to listen to various politicians around the issue and frankly I find most of them unbearable (Patrick Harvie one honourable exception).
The panel was great. I was genuinely impressed that when it was pointed out to the Constitutional Commission that they had a diversity audit problem – the original panel had six men and one women – they didn’t faff around and they didn’t say “oh well, we’ll do better next time, promise!” – they changed the panel.
- Lesley Riddoch: Writer and broadcaster
- Patrick Harvie: Co-convener Scottish Green Party
- Elliot Bulmer: Author of A Model Constitution for Scotland: Making Democracy Work in an Independent State
- Sally Foster Fulton: Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council.
- Kate Higgins: Blogger, campaigner & commentator on Scottish social justice issues;
- Ross Martin: Policy Director at Centre for Scottish Public Policy
- Willie Sullivan: Scottish Director of Electoral Reform Society.(speaking in a personal capacity)
I’m sure the two men who agreed to stand down would have been good too. But we’d have missed hearing from Sally Foster Fulton, who spoke trenchantly about the need for social justice, and Kate Higgins, who was a perfect counterbalance to Elliot Bulmer – Bulmer our necessary groundwork, demanding we pin the government’s powers down with a framework of steel and no wiggle room, Higgens our aspirational towerbuilder.
A constitution guarantees our rights in a way that trumps the government of the day and overrides the whim of the judiciary. A constitution says what we are and who we are. Of all the developed countries in the world, only Israel, New Zealand, and the UK have no written constitution at all.
Whether we vote yes or no in autumn 2014, I want a constitution for Scotland.
As many at the event on Thursday night were saying enthusiastically, this would be great for “Yes Scotland” – it could take away Alistair Darling’s very valid objection that this is a step into the unknown. (Not so great for the SNP, or for Alex Salmond: see me weep over that.)
But the majority of people in Scotland, at every poll, say they plan to vote No.
(Probably. I think Salmond may be counting on the Tories getting worse and worse until autumn 2014 has a majority just so disgusted with Tory rule and feeble Labour opposition that they decide to vote Yes just to kick the rascals out forever. It is an awfully tempting prospect, I’ll admit. The problem is the rascals we could then be landed with – there’s no guarantee an independent Scotland would do better, if we just vote Yes and then the Scottish Parliament reigns as supreme as the Westminster Parliament. But I digress.)
Planning to vote “No”, does not make anyone any less Scottish, and shame on any Yes-campaigners who try to say it does.
A Scottish constitution could become the accepted framework of policy in a devolved Scotland. It could also become the national constitution of an independent Scotland. But either way, I think this is worthwhile object to work for.
To make a statement: this is who we are and what we are. These are our values and our principles. This is how we believe Scotland is and shall be. In our 400 year history as part of the United Kingdom, we remain Scotland – not North Britain.
Through July, I plan to blog using an excellent summary that I think I owe to Elliot Bulmer, whose book I have got to read: the minimum basic content and other possible considerations. That’s about 31 points to cover, so one a day, with the hashtag SCC21st.
I’d started a survey asking people to contribute their ideas for a Constitution for Scotland, and I hope you can be persuaded to take the survey, if nothing else.
Because I also agreed with a comment made by Helene Witcher:
Thanks for running this worthwhile event highlighting the complexity of both the constitutional issues and the strongly held views that surround them. Given that the CC was hosting/chairing the event, I would have valued a concise summing up from the chair with an indication of possible next steps. As it was, we heard support in principle for ‘a roadshow’ and litle else. Given the speakers (some of whom spoke very well indeed), most could/should have been urged to offer more than just a verbal ‘okay’ to the roadshow idea but to commit something of their own contacts/organisations to support a consultation/process of involvement. This would have established a basis that could be built upon. One enthusiastic attendee asked for ‘a plan’. The paucity of responses was telling … its pretty clear that noone has thought much about this apart perhaps from Elliot (haven’t read the book yet) with what appears to be a pragmatic approach to a potentially imminent challenge.
So, overall … well done, making a start. What’s next?
There’s no funding for this. There won’t be, unless people start putting it together themselves. I’d like to see Open Space events happening across Scotland, as people crowdsource their ideas for a constitution, and have this brought together for a Constitutional Convention. Where do we get the money for this? How do we convince people to take pert?
I don’t have answers. Yet. Let’s find out.