Scottish independence: What would be in Scotland's constitution? Key points from Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Government's independence paper

The latest independence paper 'Building a New Scotland’ has been released by the Scottish Government and discussed by Humza Yousaf at a press conference on Monday morning

The fourth paper on Scottish independence in a series launched after the last Scottish Parliament elections has been published.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has held a press conference on Monday morning to discuss the Building a New Scotland paper, where he said he was trying to outline a “positive vision” for the country’s future.

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The SNP leader insisted the proposals outlined “contrast quite starkly” with Westminster, where he said rights were being “systematically eroded”.

Building a New Scotland is the fourth fresh independence paper released by the Scottish Government since the last Scotland election. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty ImagesBuilding a New Scotland is the fourth fresh independence paper released by the Scottish Government since the last Scotland election. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images
Building a New Scotland is the fourth fresh independence paper released by the Scottish Government since the last Scotland election. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Mr Yousaf said the lack of a written constitution in the UK made the country a “global outlier”.

“All member states of the European Union have written constitutions; not having one and relying on Westminster supremacy has real consequences,” he said. “We have spent the last decade looking on as the UK Government undermines constitutional principle after constitutional principle with very little anyone can do about challenging them or holding them to account.

“That would not be possible in a country with a codified written constitution.”

The key points in the paper are as follows:

What are the key points in the Scottish Government’s new independence paper?

The paper sets out and delivers the need for a written constitution, in the event of Scotland becoming independent.

A constitution is outlined as a set of rules that guides how a country works, and includes the principles setting out how the country must be governed, what institutions the country will have – like parliament, government and the law courts – and how powers are managed by those institutions.

The paper argues the UK not having a single constitutional document has damaged Scottish democracy.

A summary document of the paper states: "The effect of UK parliamentary sovereignty is that Westminster can, at any time, by ministerial action or a simple majority in each House of Parliament, change the powers of the Scottish Parliament or Government.

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"Laws made in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament, elected by the people of Scotland, can be overturned by the Westminster Parliament. Indeed, even devolution itself could be overturned by the Westminster Parliament, which could pass a law to repeal the Scotland Act and abolish the Scottish Parliament.”

The paper has argued a single written document adopted by an independent Scotland would establish the country’s framework as a “modern, democratic state”, and would be a charter that would ultimately people’s rights.

How would the constitution be decided and when would it be in place?

The paper states an interim constitution would take effect from the day Scotland becomes an independent country, with the argument this move would provide “stability and clarity” while a permanent constitution was developed.

The Scottish Government has committed to “consultation and conversation” with the Scottish people to reach the terms of the interim constitution, although the exact framework for this has not been fully outlined.

Members of a Constitutional Convention for Scotland would be recruited and appointed to decide on the permanent constitution. The Scottish Government paper has said this convention would be made up of a wide range of people, communities and organisations, including experts and representatives of different groups across society.

A draft permanent constitution created by the convention would be considered by the Scottish Parliament, then put to the people in Scotland for them to endorse in a referendum. If approved, it would become the permanent, written constitution for Scotland.

What would be contained in the constitution?

The independence paper outlines commitments that could be included in the constitution, although the final terms would be put to the public in a referendum. These include:

- the key features of Scotland's democracy – the Scottish Parliament, the courts, and government bodies;

- recognition of the NHS in Scotland;

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- human rights and equality protections, including the right to access a system of health care free at the point of need, the right to strike, and full protection of children's rights;

- a constitution that would recognise that sovereignty sits with people who live in Scotland.

Another other areas the constitution would likely include, as outlined by the paper, are:

- The Scottish Government would support Scotland's permanent written constitution containing a constitutional prohibition on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland;

- The Scottish Government proposes that such provisions should include a constitutional protection of workers' rights, including the right to withdraw labour;

- The Constitutional Convention may wish to consider embedding the rights of communities to local land in the permanent constitution.

What does Humza Yousaf have to say about the constitution?

In a foreword to open the new paper, Mr Yousaf has said the constitution would recognise that sovereignty sits with people who live in Scotland,

He said: “To be a success, our written constitution must be one that the people of Scotland believe in. It must also have the collective authority of the nation, so that those in power accept that, under the constitution, they are accountable to the people.

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“And it must do more than simply set out which institutions have what powers. It must also embody key fundamental values, so that the way that Scotland's democracy works makes those values real.

“In short, it means the people of Scotland having the direct opportunity to shape and build a better country.”



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