Foundations for Freedom: A discussion paper on the process for establishing an independent Scotland’s Constitution


Top constitutional expert Dr W. Elliot Bulmer, has outlined how the case for an independent Scotland must be founded on a ‘strong, inclusive and reassuring constitutional foundation’.

WRITING as part of the Common Weal think-tank’s White Paper Project, Dr Bulmer states that considering the several options for the constitution-writing process, a Provisional Constitution should be completed before an independence referendum followed by an inclusive process to tailor it after the vote. The paper can be read in full here

The report argues that the Provisional Constitution would have to be “sufficiently complete and robust to provide the necessary reassurance and public and international legitimacy” but warns that anything less than an inclusive post-referendum constitutional process “would betray the principles of civic, democratic nationalism that the Scottish independence movement has espoused since its inception”.

While it is argued that a Provisional Constitution would exist to provide a stable and legal framework for Scotland to become a recognised independent nation it should be less controversial in its content and avoid final decisions on topics like the monarchy.

Decisions on whether to change the Head of State, include more extensive socio-economic rights, alter the electoral system or reform local democracy should be left to the development of the final Constitution, the report states.

However, the paper also argues that a Constitutional Conference should be established to develop the Provisional Constitution. This would include as broad a cross-section of Scottish society as possible to offset any potential Unionist boycott of the process (akin to that achieved by the Constitutional Convention in the 1990s despite the absence of the SNP and Conservatives).

Commenting on the inclusive post-referendum constitutional process, Campaigns Officer for Common Weal Max Wiszniewski said “The creation of a final Constitution could be developed by a Citizens’ Assembly made up by a gender balanced and representative cross-section of Scottish society. Participating citizens could be selected on a similar basis as Jury Duty and be invited to create a Constitution that would be ratified by Parliament but more importantly the Scottish people via a referendum once independent.

The Scottish people should have the final say on issues like the monarchy and the principles that guide the nation, allowing Scotland to flourish as true 21st Century nation.”

Elliot Bulmer’s landmark paper contains a proposed timetable of the constitutional transition process, an explanation of how to develop a Provisional Constitution and its guiding principles, and an example of a draft Provisional Constitution for an independent Scotland.

Report author Elliot Bulmer said:

“There are few moments in the life of a nation as important and potentially transformative as the development of a new constitution. And there are few moments as fraught with peril and uncertainty as the transition from one constitutional order to another. This paper sets out the constitutional process for Scottish independence. It argues that the success of the independent project depends not upon the mere act of winning a referendum, but on the much more difficult and painstaking act of creating a viable, stable, inclusive and effective Scottish state. That will depend in turn upon the establishment of a widely acceptable democratic Constitution, which will protect the rights and interests of all citizens.

The time to start working on a constitution is now – ahead of any second independence referendum. That way, when we go into the referendum, it is not on the basis of a vague principle of independence, with details to be worked out on the fly (like Brexit), but instead on the basis of a detailed plan for an orderly and peaceful constitutional transition. This alone will give people security and reassurance, and will ensure that people’s hopes for a democratic Scottish state can be realised.”