A personal response by Kenyon Wright

As early as September 2009 I proposed to the (then minority) SNP government that any referendum on independence should have a second question offering “Secure Autonomy”. 

I continue to believe that the will of the people would be most clearly expressed, and the opportunity of the referendum most fully grasped, if there is such a question. 

This should offer Scottish Statehood as autonomy within what would have to be a radically reformed Union.  At the least, this should be part of the debate, and the idea developed and clarified.

Whether independence or autonomy however, it must help Scotland escape from the straitjacket of a constitutional system in decay.  As the General Assembly of the Kirk said in 1989 when it endorsed the Constitutional Convention,  “Any settlement must be built upon philosophical foundations that are more coherent and credible than the notions which underpin the existing British constitution”

This echoes the Report in 1988 of the “Claim of Right” document which saw a Scottish Parliament as “the grit in the oyster”  that might “start the reform of the British Constitution”, as “The British Government is so decayed that there is little hope of it being reformed within the framework of its traditional procedures”

The Convention clearly hoped we were creating a Parliament that would be “radically different from the rituals of Westminster, more participative, more creative, less needlessly confrontational”  

We hoped for “the central institution of a new political and community culture.  A more open democracy need innovative institutions and  attitudes, if our goal of a participative approach is to be achieved”

One thing is now clear.  The Scottish Parliament has had real achievements, but it has failed to create these philosophical foundations, or the basis for a participative rather than a representative democracy.  The increase in its powers does nothing to change that, and indeed simply underlines the supremacy of Westminster in constitutional decisions.

I believe the starting point for our debate – and the 2 years ahead give us time for it – is to spell out clearly these philosophical and constitutional foundations for a Scottish State.  The constitution of such a State needs a Constitution based on these foundations.

As one among many aspects, this means that Scots are citizens, not subjects.

Whether in independence or in autonomy, the shared monarch may be Head of State, but it will be a fully constitutional monarchy in Scotland, with none of the so-called “Royal Prerogatives” which in practice are a major factor in making the UK Prime Minister so powerful, and create what Lord Hailsham once called “an elective dictatorship”.

Kenyon Wright is President of the Constitutional Commission

This Thursday 28th June, a distinguished panel featuring Patrick Harvie, Lesley Riddoch, Elliot Bulmer, Kate Higgins, Sally Foster Fulton, Willie Sullivan and Ross Martinwill hold a discussion on what a future reconstituted Scottish state might look like. 

This event, to be held in the Scottish Parliament in front of an audience of 100 people, will be filmed and a video will be made available to Newsnet Scotland and other outlets a few days later.


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