Staking our claim

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By Sandra Webster, SSP national co-spokesperson

Independence lies open like a new book for us.  Some of the chapters have not even been written yet and that is what is exciting about the promise of an independent Scotland. It is an opportunity to dare to be different and create the kind of Society we all as socialists aspire too.  Like you, I hope for a transformation of society which reflects the interests of the many and not the few. For me, for this project to succeed, we need a written constitution.

The UK belongs to an exclusive club, being one of the few modern democracies not to have a written constitution. We have the apparatus of a complicated rule of law which gets by with checks and counterchecks. This is based on old traditions and the nudges and winks of a gentlemen’s club where all the members understand the unwritten rules. This may have allowed us to trundle along for centuries but it is evident that people today want to be more involved.

Alex Salmond has already declared that Scotland should have a written constitution and has made some suggestions about what it might include but a constitution should not belong to any party or even a parliament but to the people. Then it can be truly radical and representative.

For me a constitution means protecting in law the rights of those who are stigmatised by wider society.

People with disabilities in America have used their bill of rights as a means to ensure they have the tool to campaign for equality in all areas of their lives.

It is interesting that the recent challenge against the ending of the Independent Living Fund was won by human rights legislation. This defeated the cuts the ConDems were attempting to make in individual’s care packages allowing them to stay at home and not in an institution. This is why having human rights enshrined in a constitution is not just a lawyer’s dream but in reality a leg up for stigmatised groups in society.

A written constitution may sound archaic, belonging in the past, but it is essential for the foundations of an Independent Scotland.

It shouldn’t be just a dusty book but a recording of a conversation among all of us about how what rights all future citizens of Scotland should expect to have. It is a toolkit which can be used to plan out the kind of society we want to live in. The challenge is how to engage people.

I was speaking to a group of carers today who feel shut out of the decisions Glasgow City Council were making about those they care for. Will this be different in an Independent Scotland?
I hope so and like you will continue to strive for this.

Scotland can be transformed by a written constitution but it is crucial that even before we begin its formal writing, we ensure that all voices are listened too. Real voices not just those who declare to represent them.

A written constitution should belong to the people and not a government on behalf of us. It is only by having a conversation with each other that we can look forward to the future.

In less than a year we will decide in a once in a lifetime vote about a better future for us all in Scotland.

As socialists we hope to stake our claim in the unknown territory ahead in a future we know will create the kind of society that is a good one for all of us. A written constitution can act as a roadmap for the road ahead which is still to be written.

Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice