Adam Tomkins: The good intentions that litter Scotland’s road to perdition

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WHAT is not going to be in the constitution of an independent Scotland? This week we discovered that the constitution would guarantee an end to child poverty in Scotland and yesterday we learned that it would also enshrine the role and status of local government.

This is in addition to the constitutional rights to a free education and to a home that the First Minister heralded in a speech in London in January. This is not so much a constitution as an uncosted wishlist of All Good Things.
A constitution is not a shopping basket but a framework of law that sets down limits to what government may do in our name.

Child poverty will not be ended in Scotland or anywhere else by writing down that families have a right not to be poor.

Child poverty will be ended by governments developing policies and spending money to eradicate it.

Likewise, the way to protect and enhance local democracy within Scotland is not to enshrine its value in parchment but to embrace policies that put it into action.

How the move to consolidate Scotland’s police officers into a single force that will be accountable not to local authorities but to Scottish ministers in Edinburgh is a commitment to enhance local democracy in Scotland is lost on me, for example.

Instead of fantasising about the constitution of the new dawn, the SNP would do better to tell us how a single-chamber parliament of 129 part-time MSPs can legislate for a sovereign state and hold the government to account at the same time.

Or how giving to a new supreme court the powers to enforce social rights would mean that the supposedly sovereign Scottish people would be free to choose for themselves what sort of social policy they wished to pursue?

Or perhaps they should just start to tell us more about how much this will cost and who is going to pay.

• Adam Tomkins is professor of public law at the University of Glasgow