Independence will lay down the foundations for a fairer, equal and more democratic Scotland in which the fundamental rights of all citizens are enshrined in a written constitution and protected by a constitutional court.
This is one of the key components of a declaration published today by Lawyers for Yes, the latest group to join the movement for a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum.
The group, comprising more than 100 top QCs, leading university professors, advocates and solicitors, from across Scotland, was formally launched in Edinburgh today.
Joanna Cherry QC, the group’s convenor, said: “My colleague Gail Gianni and I set up this group to show that many in the legal profession support an independent Scotland. In a relatively short space of time more than 100 fellow lawyers have signed our Declaration.
“We have encountered many more who, for a variety of reasons, are not able make a public declaration. As word has spread about our group, we are being contacted by other lawyers expressing an interest in joining us. I hope we will be able to assist in exploding some of the scare stories and myths perpetrated by the No campaign.”
Among the group’s members are Edinburgh University constitutional expert Professor Christine Bell; Zenon Bankowski, Professor Emeritus of Legal Theory at Edinburgh University, and Aileen McHarg, Professor of Public Law at Strathclyde University.
Solicitors Fiona Cook and Jamie Kerr, both prominent Scottish Labour Party members, have also signed up to Lawyers for Yes.
The declaration has also secured the support of retired Sheriff and former Vice Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Dr Robert McCreadie QC, who was one of the Liberal Democrats” main negotiators on the Scottish Constitutional Convention between 1989-92, and Chairman of the Convention’s Constitutional Working Party.
Jonathan Mitchell QC, a member of the Lawyers for Yes steering committee, said: “The referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the people of Scotland to decide their own future under a modern constitutional framework rather than the outdated structure of the UK.”
Another signatory, leading solicitor Harvey Aberdein, said: “Independence and the setting up of the mechanisms of a new state will provide a huge boost to the corporate and commercial property sector, and provide spin-offs to the Scottish economy in a number of different sectors.”
In its Yes Declaration, the group states that a Yes vote will give Scotland an “enviable opportunity to draft a constitution which articulates the shared aspirations and values of the people who live in Scotland and protects fundamental rights, the separation of powers and the rule of law”.
Lawyers for Yes adds: “Furthermore it is our belief that an independent Scotland would preserve the right of access to justice of all people who live in this country.
“As lawyers in the real world, we believe that an independent Scotland would remain in the European Union so long as it wished to; it could not and would not be expelled against its will. By contrast, in the event of a No vote, it is a very real possibility that anti-European feeling in other parts of the United Kingdom may force us out of the EU against our will.
“Both the UK and the Scottish governments have affirmed that Scotland can exercise its right to self-determination and we see no fundamental legal obstacles to Scotland forming a democratic independent state internationally accepted as such.
“Such a state would have the same power over its land and seas, and the same power to decide its laws and policies in the interests of its people as determined by its people, as other states in the European Union. It would, we believe, be in the interests of the people of Scotland to choose such a future.”
The group says that while it has a range of different views on policy matters, “we are united in believing that it is in the interests of Scotland and its people that a Yes vote be achieved on 18 September and that there is then speedy and amicable progress towards independence”.
Lawyers for Yes brings the total number of Yes sectoral or special interest groups to more than 40 including NHS for Yes, Mums for Change, Third Sector for Yes and Trade Unionists for Yes,
Yes Scotland Chief Executive Blair Jenkins said he was delighted to welcome Lawyers for Yes to the ever-expanding Yes family.
He said: “Lawyers for Yes is an important new addition to the Yes movement and an expression of our depth, diversity and expertise. The group has enlisted some of the country’s most eminent legal brains and its authoritative statements on subjects such as citizens” rights and EU membership are a vital and welcome contribution to the debate about Scotland’s future.”