As long as it’s interim

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 24th March 2014

Last week I attended two different events which discussed the possibilities a written constitution presents to Scotland. This week I am due to attend another. Scotland has already begun to think about what a constitution might look like, regardless of the result of the referendum. The debate around constitutional rights is already a separate conversation from the binary referendum campaign.

It is vital that these conversations are heard by those charged with outlining our constitutional future. Today, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated the Scottish Government’s intention to involve all of Scotland in drawing up a constitution:

“It is a cornerstone of Scottish democracy that sovereignty rests with the people. That is why we want to make the drafting of our permanent written constitution an inclusive process involving all the people of Scotland – it must be a constitution by the people, for the people – articulating Scotland’s values, enhancing our liberties and defining our responsibilities.

“I believe the process of drafting our constitution will energise and inspire people across the country – woman and men, young and old, rural and urban, people in all the diverse communities that make up modern Scotland. It would be an exciting and unique opportunity to shape our nation, celebrate and protect our values and commit ourselves to building a better country.”

This continued commitment to involving Scotland’s citizens is welcome, but must be adhered to from the outset. Today’s speech also outlined plans for an ‘interim’ constitution, to be put out for consultation before the summer recess. This must do exactly what it says on the tin – it must be interim, and interim only, not a permanent top-down settlement.

The ‘interim constitution’ should therefore be no more than an enabling platform. It should set out the terms for the constitutional convention and clarify the nature and extent of the consultation. It should be inclusive, non-partisan and genuinely participative. And it should be shaped by all the parties.

After all, as our Democracy Max inquiry concluded: if there is a need to articulate better a shared vision for our society and to build trust between our institutions and people, surely this need will exist regardless of the outcome of the referendum?

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