By Alex Robertson
 
Patrick Harvie said some interesting things in his absurd 2 minutes allocation in the BBC's recent debate on Scottish Independence.  Waxing eloquent on the independence benefit of being able to avoid being dragged into imperial wars, UK or American, he proposed that there might be a constitutional obstacle put in place.

That, of course, led him to go let the other shoe drop, and suggest that an independent Scotland should really have a written Constitution.  Not bad for two minutes.  And both suggestions have much merit.

Now Constitution writing is usually a mug’s game, waste of time, and a god-awful monumental diversion from what really needs doing.  But in this case, it might be a brilliant idea.  The trouble in embarking on that kind of malarkey is normally that it degenerates into counting how many angels can stand on the head of a pin, and links to reality and the real world and its problems and needs is tenuous to say the least.

It also has a tendency to spawn dissent and disharmony among those engaged in it.  And, just to knock it decisively on the head, it attracts the barrack-room lawyer type of cove, which doesn’t do anyone any good at all.  But just imagine the entire Scots nation being engaged in discussing the kind of Scotland they want and dream of, in the runup to the referendum as well.

Now that has attractions.

The other problem with Constitution writing is that is has always in the past been a top-down approach, with the actual writing being done by a pretty small bunch of people at the top, the result of which is then flung out to the people who are asked to ratify it in a referendum of some sorts, with little or no opportunity to discuss or propose different, or new wording.

But these days are gone, or can be made to be gone.  Software and communications technologies have advanced greatly and it is now very possible to provide a draft text and farm it out in parts to remote task forces, who can in turn hold town meetings to discuss and revise their draft part, several times if necessary.

A central editor then takes the revised text bits in from the remote task forces, or work groups, and produces a new complete draft.  This can then be distributed as a whole to the work groups who will hold a new set of town meetings, to discuss and revise and return proposed revised complete text to the editorial group.

Where possible, the editorial group will produce a revised draft complete version with, where needed, alternative versions of parts where no consensus exists.  This can then be sent out to the work groups again, where a third round of town meetings will make their choices on the alternative sections and return the result to the editors.

The majority view will prevail and a final draft is issued widely for general discussion and comments, before a national convention is held to collect signatures in support of the final version.  It works, and I have used it in preparing documents across several countries even, on complex matters and involving people with different backgrounds, interests and concerns.

And there is absolutely nothing to stop such techniques and technologies, using the web, to be applied here.

Just imagine.  At the end of that we would have had more discussion on our new homeland across the whole country, all on a voluntary basis with little or no cost, than any BBC debates or rigged polls.  Would it be binding?

No, but it would represent a formidable display of people power, likely to deter whoever gets the job of negotiating the Act of Independence and the associated negotiations.  And it would be a gleaming display of democracy which would command the admiration and respect of people worldwide.

At a bare minimum it would be a Claim of Rights to outshine all others.

There is nothing to stop it happening but our own fear, and it is more than time for us to say goodbye to that ball and chain.

[Notice: Newsnet Scotland will be carrying out some site maintenance tomorrow (Sunday).  As a result the comment facility will be disabled.  We will re-activate the facility as soon as we can.]

Comments  

 
# Legerwood 2012-06-09 23:31
After the banking crash did Iceland not rewrite its constitution and do so in a manner similar to what has been suggested here i.e. people contributing to the writing of it via the internet to get the widest possible participation.

Or has memory let me down?
 
 
# davemsc 2012-06-09 23:41
I think you're right actually.
 
 
# Fungus 2012-06-09 23:38
You are right Ledgerwood and I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Harvie and Mr. Robertson, Scotland needs a written constitution half of what Westminster gets away with is down to the fact that they can make the constitutional rulkes up as they go along.
 
 
# ttwapies 2012-06-10 04:18
Sounds like you are calling for a popular revolution. Good work. Keep it up.
 
 
# cokynutjoe 2012-06-10 07:27
If you were founding a new bowling club, you wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel constitution wise, just ask the bowling club down the road for a look at theirs and change the headings.
The Westminster Bowling Club would of course be out of the question as they apparently run this decrepid institution without one.
 
 
# Macart 2012-06-10 08:12
A good article Mr Robertson and an idea with a good deal of merit. I've always considered a written constitution a good way of keeping the politicians in check but was leery of top down construction. I would certainly consider it a proactive and positive step by the SG to follow the process you have outlined.
 
 
# exel 2012-06-10 21:34
Whatever maintenance has been carried out at NNS has worked wonders. I have been transported back to 2010.
 
 
# maxstafford 2012-06-12 00:35
That's good, you've got the 2011 election results still to look forward to then! :-)
 
 
# exel 2012-06-12 16:17
The reason I mention 2010 is that it was early that year when I first started supporting, on NNS, “A new written constitution for the people of these islands” as a way forward to repairing the broken UK political system and addressing the problems that the Scottish electorate are experiencing with that “top down, political party controlled, elective dictatorship”.

The political parties circumvented the will of the electorate at the 2010 GE by forming the present coalition. That is allowed by the equally broken “electoral system” operating under the unwritten constitution. For almost 30 years the electorate have had to put up with government by political parties who took power by securing a majority of what is laughingly called “the popular vote”. The absurdity of this seems to have escaped the majority of voters in UK, but not the SCOTS.

In the Scottish election of 2011, the political party in Scotland, which had sacrificed its principles, to take part in this broken outdated democracy, was decimated.

Another political party, the SNP, saw this as the chance to steal power in Scotland by trying to convince us that by seceding from the union (independence) all the ills can be cured. They have toyed with the idea of “A Written constitution for Scotland” but only if we first vote for independence.

They have consulted (result yet unknown), they have offered a date for the referendum, have launched a campaign to persuade us but as yet been unwilling to discuss entrenching our sovereignty.

I do not think the people of Scotland see sovereignty as a vote once every 5 years.

I think they want a set of rules a CONSTITUTION.

Alex Robertson wrote: “Now Constitution writing is usually a mug’s game, waste of time, and a god-awful monumental diversion from what really needs doing. But in this case, it might be a brilliant idea. The trouble in embarking on that kind of malarkey is normally that it degenerates into counting how many angels can stand on the head of a pin, and links to reality and the real world and its problems and needs is tenuous to say the least.”

I know there are several “Draft constitutions” around there is also a Constitutional Commission for Scotland. The SNP have one. But the important thing is it should be a NON POLITICAL PARTY discussion.


There is still time before autumn 2014 to involve the people of Scotland in their Constitutional future.
 
 
# UpSpake 2012-06-14 07:30
Perhaps those here should make reference to the Scottish Constitutional Commission and the work they are undertaking by receiving submissions from all sections of Scotland.
Awareness of this alone might provide re-assurance to some that this matter serious as it is, is being propoperly addressed.
 
 
# exel 2012-06-14 11:35
UpSpake 2012-06-14 08:30
"Perhaps those here should make reference to the Scottish Constitutional Commission and the work they are undertaking by receiving submissions from all sections of Scotland.
Awareness of this alone might provide re-assurance to some that this matter serious as it is, is being propoperly addressed."

Sorry upspake I forgot the SDA! But the point of my post was that, “submissions from political parties” do not constitute a PUBLIC DEBATE.
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-06-17 12:24
Report says Trident could be disarmed quickly on independence.
I heard on BBC Radio 4 today that some LibDems in the Coalition Government were "restless" re the current plans to renew the subs!
"RESTLESS"?
Answer that one Mr Rennie.

SNP Scottish Government wants "the development and diversification of HM Naval Base Clyde as a vibrant and sustainable conventional naval base in an independent Scotland," the spokeswoman added.

Meanwhile Labour also continue with their support---Lamont and Labour up here,following the Labour HQ line.
heraldscotland.com/.../...
COMMENTS PERMITTED.
Normally I don't click on any Herald News,but making an exception here as threat to lives is paramount.
This has just come up on BBC News.
www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18475108
Comments permitted.
Can you imagine us changing Tehran into another Hiroshima?
It's obscene.
 

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