What could a new Scottish Constitution include? Before the referendum in 2014 we would expect to know in detail what the SNP’s plan is if they achieve an independent Scotland.
Many people on the left who support independence believe that once it has been achieved it will allow “normal” politics to resume and the real fight for the future character of Scotland will commence. It is assumed that left party/parties that emerge will be able to overturn any decisions the SNP has made that curtail the introduction of left policies.
We know the SNP is currently debating whether being in NATO will be part of its platform. We also know that it intends to retain the monarchy, Sterling and remain in the European Union. Well, left supporters would say, if we don’t like these policies we can just elect a government that will change them.
Those members of the SNP that oppose the proposal that an independent Scotland should remain in NATO are rightly concerned that it would result in nuclear weapons remaining in Scotland. The pressure from NATO and the EU as well as possible financial inducements from Westminster could result in the removal of Trident being low down the list of priorities.
When the state of Kosovo was established in 2008 it adopted a constitution that included the adoption of a “market economy”, that it would be “in membership of NATO” and that it would “meet the criteria required by the European Union”. These issues are not policies open to change through normal political channels, but are embedded in the country’s Constitution.
Constitutions are not open to change by a simple majority, even if a Party is elected with a programme of change. The Constitutional Commission’s which is campaigning for a written constitution for Scotland has drafted a model Constitution for Scotland. Published in 2011 it states “No subsequent amendment of this Constitution shall come into force unless proposed by a two-thirds majority vote the Parliament and then ratified, in a popular referendum, by the affirmative votes of a majority of the enfranchised citizens.”
It is important to remember that a Constitution is not a set of neutral rules and regulations, but is used to shape the emerging state. Whoever drafts the constitution gets to put their stamp on the future development of the country, and that can be hard to alter.
For example the Irish Republic’s Constitution adopted in 1937 begins with the preamble: “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial….”