By a Newsnet reporter
The people of Iceland are to be given the opportunity to vote on whether to accept plans for a new draft constitution.
The population of around 320,000 are to be offered the chance to decide on whether a range of issues should be protected by law in a referendum to be held on 20 October 2012.

The vote follows deliberations by the nation’s Constitutional Council which was set up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that saw the country’s banks collapse with debts that ran into billions.

Following the calamity, Iceland set up a council made up of 25 ordinary citizens tasked with drafting proposals for a constitution aimed in part at ensuring the practices that brought about the collapse of Iceland’s banks could not happen again.

In a unique and novel move, the process was opened up to the wider public who were allowed to input their own ideas and suggestions to the process through online social media.

Termed 'crowd-sourcing', the Constitutional Council was highly active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, where they solicited comments and suggestions for the new government.

"I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet," said Thorvaldur Gylfason in June 2011, a member of Iceland's constitutional council.

"The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch."

On Friday July 29th, 2011, the Iceland parliament officially received the new constitution, comprised of over 700 pages of 114 articles divided into 9 chapters.

The referendum will ask the public their views on a range of proposals including whether natural resources should be designated national property and whether the people can demand a referendum be held on specific issues.

All Icelandics are entitled to vote provided they appear on the voters register as published on the 29th September.

If ratified, the Icelandic constitution will be the first in history to have been drafted transparently in full view of, and with the participation of, a country's citizens.

The referendum will signal the end of a tumultuous period in Iceland's history.  Iceland's economic recovery has been as swift as its demise, in June this year the small independent nation repaid $483.7 million in loans to the International Monetary Fund.  The early repayment followed another of more than $900 million in March.

Powered by tourism, exports and domestic consumption, Icelandic GDP grew 2.4 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2012 to put annual economic growth at 4.5 percent in the period, the highest since the first quarter of 2008.

By contrast, the UK economy is currently mired in a double-dip recession with the second quarter growth of minus 0.5%, the revised figure a slight improvement on the original -0.7% reported estimate.


The following questions will be put to the Icelandic electorate in the referendum:

1.      Do you wish the Constitution Council's proposals to form the basis of a new draft Constitution?
2.      In the new Constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property?
3.      Would you like to see provisions in the new Constitution on an established (national) church in Iceland?
4.      Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution authorising the election of particular individuals to the Althingi more than is the case at present?
5.      Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution giving equal weight to votes cast in all parts of the country?
6.      Would you like to see a provision in the new Constitution stating that a certain proportion of the electorate is able to demand that issues are put to a referendum?


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# oldnat 2012-08-27 20:08
Icelanders are considered to be clever enough to consider 6 different questions.

Unionists have reluctantly conceded that we should be asked one.

They must really think we are thick.
# Breeks 2012-08-27 20:35
I'm a little bit jealous of Iceland.

Very soon, that could be Scotland leading the way with positive innovations in democracy.
# border reiver 2012-08-27 20:44
Iceland must be congratulated for its ability to overcome such a traumtic shock to its financial woes in such a relatively short period of time. It is an interesting scenario where a small independent country was able to make important decisions based on what was best for its citizens, no doubt they still have a long way to go but amending their constitution to best suit their needs is to be commended.
Lesley Riddoch made an interesting contribution about Iceland to the Scottish constitutional debate at Holyrood.
# cokynutjoe 2012-08-27 20:56
A small friendly country which Gordon Brown hit with anti-terrorist laws, was there ever a satisfactory explanation for this extraordinary behaviour.
# west_lothian_questioner 2012-08-27 21:18
I'm mightily impressed with the Icelanders and they way they're dealing with their constitutional changes is something we could learn from.

Who decided the people could manage a whole six questions all at the same time? Does it rain a lot in Reykjavik?
# oldnat 2012-08-27 21:33
Seems an odd idea for Scots - but Icelanders decided for themselves how many questions they could answer.

I believe it's due to some strange condition called "independence".
# clootie 2012-08-27 22:13

We could do that........!
# Barontorc 2012-08-27 22:42
Watch and learn!
# expat67 2012-08-27 23:46
Small is beautiful!!!
Well done Iceland!
As Barontorc says "Watch and learn!"
Now when was it that Iceland got their independence?
# Florajo 2012-08-28 00:29
WOWSERZ!! that's democracy working in a modern world!! Way Forward!!
We can only learn and take note for our future.
# Angus 2012-08-28 06:24
I m jealous.
They paid off that money quickly, and they dont have oil!
# UpSpake 2012-08-28 06:49
Without doubt, the very best thing that could ever happen to the English would be for Scotland to adopt its own Constitution, and to do so well in advance of any referendum as the two are not mutually exclusive.
# Galen10 2012-08-28 08:06
Why does it have to be "well in advance" of the referendum? Isn't that what the period AFTER the vote in 2014 would be for?

I put the same questions to you as I've put to others insisting we should put the cart before the horse in this way:

a) what body would decide on this proposed constitution between now and 2014?;
b) where would its mandate come from?; and
c) what legitimacy would it have?

I don't think you, and those who support your position like excel have ever managed to answer these questions, despite being asked it across a number of threads here and indeed elsewhere.

There is no need or popular demand for this issue to be addressed at the same time as the campaign for a YES vote in 2014, in fact such a parallel debate would potentially harm the chances of securing the maximum YES vote, and would in any case be of doubtful legitimacy.
# Highland Tiger 2012-08-28 09:16
I don't understand this, we need a constitution first before we vote for Independence discussion.

If you are hungry and go into a restaurant, you are asked if you would like to eat, you say yes and you then take your seat. At that point you decide what you want to eat.

If, like people are saying, you are asked what constitution we should be voting for, it is like going into the restaurant and asked if you would like steak. You don't want steak, but want fish, so you say no and leave. That would give the impression you aren't hungry, when in fact you still are.

We have to be asked if we want Independence first, then decide how Scotland goes about delivering it.
# snowthistle 2012-08-28 12:14
You don't think that people who are not quite convinced about independence, the people we have to persuade, might need a different set of arguments to the ones that convince us?
Perhaps these people would be reassured if from day one our new government were bound by restrictions on their political power.

I'd like to see No 2 of the Icelandic list right in there from the very beginning.
# Highland Tiger 2012-08-28 13:46
I agree, but we aren't being offered that, we are being offered a vote on Independence.

What I would like to see is a guarantee that once Independence is achieved, the Government will consult the people of Scotland in creating a constitution and suggest ideas or examples they may want to think about, prior to the referendum itself. That way the doubters may be able to see the benefits of Independence and how a properly constructed constitution, created by the people of Scotland, will benefit them.
# Jim Johnston 2012-08-28 08:18
SIX Questions ??

Can any human brain handle such rocket science ?

Surely the auld heid will go feverish, the hands will start shaking, and their eyes will start watering.
(I suspect it will be bankers who will suffer these symptoms)

Well done Iceland !!!
# Highland Tiger 2012-08-28 08:59
I have visited Iceland 3 times, before (2003), during (2011) and after (2012) the banking failure.

For a small country with a population of about 300k, they have done very well for themselves. The infrastructure that they have built is amazing, and they take pride in their country, and this is without any oil revenue either.

It just shows what a small, independent country can achieve when it invests wisely, and not wasting its money on nuclear weapons.

The Unionists were very quick to belittle the SNP when it said Scotland should aspire to be like Iceland, I wonder what they have to say on the matter now.

Iceland can do it, and it should be an example of what Scotland can do if we vote for Independence.
# robbo 2012-08-28 10:15
What's the point in having a constitution if you're just going to change it in a referendum?

Iceland is growing, but let's not forget the economy nearly halved in size during the troubles.

They did the right thing though, let things fail, reallocate resources and grow from there. We need to do the same.
# fynesider 2012-08-28 10:51
Good for Iceland....

We should do exactly the same thing once we're independent!
# exel 2012-08-28 12:01
@ Highland Tiger: “If, like people are saying, you are asked what constitution we should be voting for, it is like going into the restaurant and asked if you would like steak. You don't want steak, but want fish, so you say no and leave. That would give the impression you aren't hungry, when in fact you still are.

Good analogy Tiger, like going to the restaurant, you eat if there is something on the menu that appeals to you, if you are told that they only serve “steak”. I would certainly leave if there was no other menu.

Iceland already had a constitution when they became independent.
# Highland Tiger 2012-08-28 14:05
But we aren't being given a vote on the Constitution, we are being given a vote on Independence.

The SNP have to work within the mandate they got at the election.

So, although I am all for a Constitution for Scotland, it won’t happen till we first get our Independence. We can suggest to people what could be in a Constitution for Scotland, and how it could benefit them, but to get to that stage we have to take the first step and become independent.
# Ananurhing 2012-08-28 17:26
Quoting Highland Tiger:
The SNP have to work within the mandate they got at the election.

The SNP have to work around the responses received from their consultation. Why should that be such a problematic concept to embrace? The Icelandic people seem to have managed this without difficulty. We are being asked to make a constitutional decision, and this is a democracy.
# reconvene 2012-08-28 12:21
A process for Scots to decide on a Constitution for Scotland.
A method that is fair, democratic and has merit worthy of consideration, would be that all Elected Members of our local Community Councils, County Councils, City Councils, and Members of Scottish Parliament, should come together in convention to deliberate and debate. Not to form a Constitution, but only to confer and choose from among themselves a sufficient number ( to be decided ) of representatives to form a committee. This committee of delegates will meet in congress with the powers to form a Constitution, and then propose it for consideration to the Scottish Public.
This Constitution is then published, not as a thing established but as a consultation document for their acceptance or rejection by the public. After any alterations, changes or amendments, it is then accepted and ratified. It then becomes a law to govern our Government.
# Galen10 2012-08-28 12:58
You think? Seems a rather involved process to me... and when do you envisage this taking place?

I'm all in favour of wide consultation once a yes vote is achieved (hopefully) in 2014, but it would seem to me that a better route would be for a specially convened constitutional convention to be either popularly elected, or appointed by a newly elected parliment for the sole purpose of drawing up a new constitution. This would then be submitted for approval via a popular referendum, or possibly simply by approval of the majority in parliament.
# snowthistle 2012-08-28 13:52
I'd be perfectly relaxed about the process taking place in 2014. A lot of organisations have been working away quietly at this, not least the SNP who have a draft constitution ready, (one which Elliot Bulmer described as "very good").
Where we do part company is at the appointed convention with approval passed by a majority in parliament bit.
# Galen10 2012-08-28 14:17
Don't get me wrong, ideally I'd advocate a directly elected "one purpose" convention tasked with drafting a new constitution, which would then be voted on via referendum.

At a pinch however I'd live with a convention which was appointed by a newly elected parliament (as long as it was, and was seen to be, representative of the nation as a whole, and inclusive as possible), and that if it WAS ratified by parliament it had to be carried by (say) 60% or 2/3 of the vote.

As for existing drafts, and participation by civic groups, experts and other interests groups, that's all fine, as long as it is realised that in the final analysis it is the Scottish people (whether by direct vote or via their elected representatives ) who will have the final say.
# snowthistle 2012-08-28 14:35
We are in absolute agreement that it has to be the Scottish people who have the final say. I'm not suggesting that the draft bill of any organisation should be adopted wholesale, just that we won't be starting from scratch. There has been a significant amount of work done already so we have a head start.
# Galen10 2012-08-28 12:43

The situations of Iceland and Scotland are not comparable. the Danes granted Iceland a constiution and home rule in 1874. The Kingdom of Iceland was formed as a fully sovereign state in 1904 in a personal Union with the Danish monarchy. Denmark remained responsible for its foreign affairs and defence interests, although the Althing in Iceland declared Iceland neutral.

Technically the British violated Icelandic neutrality when the occupied the island in 1940 after the Nazis overran Denmark (the Icelanders had acted against both German and British forces prior to the occupation, and protested vigorously at the British action).

Since the Act of Union with Denmark expired in Dec. 1943, the Icelanders held a referendum on independence in 1944, where 97% voted yes.

It formally became an independent republic on 17th June 1944. although some Danes questioned the legality of the declaration, the Danish king congratulated the Icelandic people.

The Althing approved the cancellation of the 1918 constitution in 1944, and agreed a new one which was submitted to the people for ratification at the same time as the independence referendum.

Thus, the Icelandic situation does not in fact support you in the way you hope. Iceland already HAD a constitution, and the Althing was the legitimate body of a sovereign state when it decided to replace the constiution of the Kingdom of Iceland with one for a republic, which was to be ratified by popular referendum.

Scotland does not have an existing constitution, nor is it a sovereign state as the Kingdom of Iceland was. Also the current Holyrood parliament is not the right body to develop a constiution for an independent Scotland, because it is a creature of the devolutionary settlement. Once the people have voted yes in 2014, a newly elected parliament, or a specially convened convention, is the place for a constitution to be developed and put forward approval, whether by referendum or by majority of the "new" parliament.

None of this is rocket science. None of it supports your view.
# exel 2012-08-28 18:25
Highland Tiger 2012-08-28 14:46
“I agree, but we aren't being offered that, we are being offered a vote on Independence.!”

As Galen10 points out: “The Althing (Iceland parliament), approved the cancellation of the 1918 constitution in 1944, and agreed a new one which was submitted to the people for ratification at the same time as the independence referendum.”
# govanite 2012-08-28 20:10
Just flying kites but

'Do you endorse the proposed written constitution that:
1) Scotland shall be an Independent country.
2) ....
3) ....

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