Mr. Salmond’s New Year Message was: ‘Scots must determine their own future’

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by Alex Sloan

The problem is how to achieve this end, the present system of government does not allow the Scottish people to be asked the question – Do you wish Scotland to be independent?  

The SNP and others advocating secession from the union seem unable to put a convincing argument to the people at a Scottish election. Trying to work within the broken UK system, however admirable, is not working. Before the 2011 election a new way of governing Scotland must be set before the electorate. A written Scottish constitution fit for a sovereign nation in the 21st century.

WHY WE NEED A WRITTEN CONSTITUTION FOR SCOTLAND

The current UK constitution is an evolved, unwritten non-codified constitution. The system has been hi-jacked by the PARTIES – unionist, nationalist and everything in between. It holds parliament as sovereign, not the people. It is no longer fit for purpose in a devolved, let alone a modern self governing Scotland.

This system allows the leader of the party with the most seats to control the executive, with no reference to parliament. The Prime Minister becomes the chief executive and simply appoints his cabinet. It does not engender consensus nor does it ensure that the cabinet is staffed with the most able MPs.

The situation is further exacerbated, and democracy diminished, by the ‘Whip system’.  This is a system whereby MPs are effectively compelled to vote along party lines regardless of their individual views.  We have in effect a PARTY DICTATORSHIP.

In current practice this means that any ‘Party’ or ‘Coalition of Parties’ in government – assuming they have a majority – can change the law to suit the objectives of that ‘Party’ or ‘Coalition of Parties’.  Any change in the law effects an alteration to the rights of the people.

Scottish Independence is a political ambition of political parties, advocacy groups and individuals.  Their collective aim is for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom and become a sovereign state, separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  However, simply stating “we advocate independence” and expecting everything to fall into place is not sufficient.

Nationalists have been advocating Independence for ‘it feels like forever’ years. But as political parties, they always shy away from changing the present system which allows them power through parliamentary sovereignty. Since their election to minority government in 2007 support for the SNP has hovered around 35%. It seems a majority of Scottish voters are not convinced. Perhaps they thought; Why throw away a broken UK system when the replacement has yet to be revealed?

They did however (as did Wales and Northern Ireland) vote for a devolved administration.  This was the ‘half a loaf’ offered by unionist parties in the hope that it would stem the rise of nationalism.  The unionists made a mistake though, instead of quelling the desire for regional autonomy it spread throughout the UK.  Even England, which did not need a devolved parliament (Westminster would suffice), wanted more autonomy in the regions.

These devolved governments have performed reasonably well, in spite of the limited powers.  However it is still not enough and if the Westminster system is not for changing, the only way left is independence.

What is required then is a Scottish written codified constitution establishing once and for all that the people are sovereign and entitled to self governance in the nation state of Scotland.  A constitution setting out what an independent Scotland means and voted for by the electorate at a Scottish referendum, showing it is the settled will of the Scottish people.

The parliament of a truly independent nation must be accountable to the people, not to a political party philosophy.

It must provide for a system of parliamentary government in which power is shared equitably between national and local government and in which representatives and public servants are held accountable to the people and not to a party philosophy.