A modern constitution for an independent Scotland

The Scottish Government has published its latest independence paper, in the “Building A New Scotland” series, setting out the need and the case for a written Scottish constitution after independence.

Read Humza Yousaf’s foreword, summarising the key points, below.

This fourth publication in the ‘Building a New Scotland’ series sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for how people in Scotland can create a written constitution that puts democracy, rights and equality at the heart of everything we do as an independent country.

To be a success, our written constitution must be one that the people of Scotland believe in.

It must also have the collective authority of the nation, so that those in power accept that, under the constitution, they are accountable to the people.

And it must do more than simply set out which institutions have what powers. It must also embody key fundamental values, so that the way that Scotland’s democracy works makes those values real.

In short, it means the people of Scotland having the direct opportunity to shape and build a better country.

The proposals in this paper set out how we propose Scotland should create a modern, written constitution to help achieve these aims. An independent Scotland could have:

  • a constitution that would recognise that sovereignty sits with people who live in Scotland, not in a Westminster Parliament that does not reflect their political choices
  • a constitution that would spread power among the institutions and communities of Scotland, rather than locating it in only one place: the Westminster Government’s majority in the House of Commons
  • a constitution that is clear and understandable, written by, rather than just for, people in Scotland
  • a constitution that provides recognition of the NHS in Scotland, giving the right to access a system of health care, available free at the point of need
  • a constitution that recognises and protects employment rights, including the right to strike
  • a constitution that would build in compliance with international law, recognising that the challenges of the 21st century require global action and cooperation
  • a constitution that would not be reticent or equivocal in its recognition of our human rights, but instead would put them, the protections of equality and the essential elements of our democracy above and beyond the daily political fray, rather than letting them be amended in the same way as any other law.

These are not abstract aspirations, separate from the day-to-day reality of people’s lives.

Better government results in better decisions for people’s everyday lives. Eleanor Roosevelt said that human rights begin “close to home… the places where every man, woman and child seek equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

Independence would give Scotland the ability to continue its progressive approach to human rights and equality, without the current restrictions of the devolution settlement and without the threat of Westminster overruling our decisions or unwinding our advances.

This would ensure that our human rights and equality protections could cover all policy areas, including those currently reserved to the Westminster Parliament.

With independence, we can build a better country on that fundamental right of every person in Scotland to be treated equally, and with a written constitution, Scotland can build a new home for democracy, rights and equality.