20 January 2013

Despatches from Nationalist-occupied Scotland...

There's your vellum, there's your quill. Now bugger off and write your constitution.  While that prospect might excite history's most avid amateur constitution framers, like the Abbé Sieyès, most folk quite reasonably wouldn't have the foggiest where to begin. Scratch around inside your skull and you're sure to find at least a few borrowed constitutional precepts and examples, but framing of the whole text? The prospect is intimidating to say the least.  

As an entrée, it seems more useful to pick a concrete issue, and use it to explore potential controversies about the different sorts of constitution we might choose from.  In a speech in London this week on a future independent Scotland's written constitution, Alex Salmond did just that, giving three examples of the sorts of question which a Scottish constitutional convention, framing the fundamental law of the land, would have to consider. The first he picked is arguably the handiest for stimulating the constitutional debate.  Salmond said:

"At the moment, the UK Government’s austerity measures and welfare cuts are raising questions about how people’s rights to vital social services can be protected. In Scotland we have a policy of the right to free education in keeping with our history as the nation which pioneered universal education. We also have homelessness legislation which is proving effective by granting rights to people who are made involuntarily homeless. There is an argument for embedding those provisions as constitutional rights."

Do you agree? Should we be seriously thinking about the constitution before 2014, or should we put off the discussion until after the poll? That was just one of the issues we nattered on about in this week's episode of the For A' That podcast. Michael and I were joined by Osama Saeed all the way from sunny Qatar. 

Currently Al Jazeera's head of communications, in a past life, Osama was also an advisor to the First Minister and Westminster candidate in Glasgow for the SNP.  We also discussed the international coverage which the independence debate is attracting, the snarky, loopy, anti-nat tenor which gripped the House of Commons debate on the section 30 order, passed by Westminster this week, and took a look back at the politics (and drama) of the city of Glasgow, in a week lacking neither.  As usual, this episode can be downloaded from iTunes and from Spreaker, or alternatively, you can listen to it online here.

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