Book review: A Model Constitution for Scotland by W. Elliot Bulmer


by Stuart McHardy

As the political scene heats up over the proposed referendum, it is noticeable that the political establishment in Westminster and the mainstream media are missing the point. What matters is the sovereign will of the Scottish people, no more, no less. And in the current debate there are some who are focussing on the future. This means thinking about what Scottish governance should be like in a post-independence state and what kind of constitution we should have.

W. Elliot Bulmer’s A Model Constitution for Scotland addresses this question, in a concise and extremeley clear-headed manner.  By asking the right questions he comes up with a proposed constitution, based on the MacCormick Constitution of 1977, that fits the bill.

In so doing he exposes the rotten heart of corruption that festers in British establishment politics with its constant agenda of serving the interests of its friends in the City of London and asks questions of how we should be governed fairly and transparently. He does not preach, he does not hector, he simply asks the question “What is good governance?” and sets out tried and tested answers from all round the world.

W. Elliot Blumer’s descriptions of Westminster as ‘a place of theatrical ritualised confrontation’ and ‘as a democratic legislature and as a deliberative body it can only be regarded a dysfunctional’ are clearly accurate, but this book is not about Westminster or even Britain, Great or not. It is about Scotland’s future and as such everyone with an interest in the future of our nation should read it.

I would go further and say that this should be on the curriculum for all 5th and 6th year students. It would make a brilliant introduction to US style Civics classes, which would be nae bad thing.  Bulmer deals with ‘Fundamental Rights and Freedoms’ in a broad-minded and incisive fashion, and rightly warns against the influence of business corporations, an influence that is all-persuasive in the pseudo public school debating atmosphere of the metrovincial, Westminster bear-pit.

If I have a criticism it would be that when dealing with the need for bodies to keep proper democratic oversight of government, which he calls integrity branch institutions, he does not include one for the law – an area of Scottish public life that is problematic as can be seen by the alacrity which with which our supposedly independent legal system rushed to provide the show trial of Megrahi at the behest of the US, and which appears at its highest levels, to be controlled by heredity rather than ability. He does suggest that judicial appointments are controlled by a Judicial Appointments Council with a strong lay presence, but I suspect this is may not be enough to counter the entrenched speculatory habits of so many legal practitioners. He also avoids being drawn into the land question which may be playing safe, for the moment, but which will disappoint some.

All in all however, this is a major contribution to the debate on our future constitution and one that I heartily recommend.

A Model Constitution for Scotland by W. Elliot Bulmer is published by Luath Press, paperback £9.99