Let's write our own constitution for Scotland
In a doorstop of a White Paper published this week, Scotland's SNP government promises an opportunity for people to be involved in drafting a new constitution for Scotland. We should seize this rare chance to identify where power actually lies and map out what real self-determination would look like.
The SNP government has to propose a new constitution, because how could you have a new country without one? The other main political parties must oppose the whole idea – because they believe the British constitution and the union of England, Wales and Scotland is the last word on democracy. Were it so!
Scotland's Future promises "an open, participative and inclusive constitutional convention" to "ensure that it reflects the fundamental constitutional truth – that the people, rather than politicians or state institutions are the sovereign authority in Scotland". The convention will have a direct role in shaping the constitution following the approach of the US constitutional convention of 1787, the SNP government claims.
But the truth is that the draft people will be consulted on is certain to consist of a robust defence of the status quo, where profit-driven growth invariably trumps the needs of people and the environment. It will enshrine capitalist property “rights”, support company law and leave land in private hands. Political power will remain firmly out of reach for the majority.
And it won't be the people living on estates and battling poverty that are consulted, but the bodies that make up Scotland's close-knit elite. So in order to discuss the kind of revolutionary constitution that shook the world in 1787, we will need to draft it ourselves. We should establish People's Assemblies across Scotland to ensure that the people, not the corporations and not the professional politicians of any stripe, decide matters.
Most of the White Paper is a referendum day shopping list of childcare, inflation-proofed pensions and wages, and an end to the hated bedroom tax and universal credit. All this is promised in the midst of a global economic crisis and Scotland would have no immunity to a renewal of the banking crash. In fact, with RBS in line to be the trigger of the next financial crisis, Scotland would be hit hard.
Further, fiscal independence is a myth whatever the currency. With the SNP government determined to remain in the pound, its room for manoeuvre will be minimal, to say the least. In any case, the Bank of England, which decides money supply, interest rates and so on, does so in the interests of the bankers and the corporations. If an independent Scotland is compelled to join the euro as the price of European Union membership, it wil be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire.
The White Paper points to the eurozone as an example of a single currency operating well in many independent states. Where has the SNP been for the last five years? What price Greek, Spanish or Irish independence when it came to defending people from horrifying austerity, mass unemployment and poverty imposed by Europe in the name of defending the euro?
In 670 pages and 170,000 words the SNP outlines a social democratic paradise to emerge fully formed from a “Yes” vote. First minister Alex Salmond says it is "a mission statement and a prospectus for the kind of country we should be". But we all know what happens to company mission statements and prospectus's when the market crashes and the economy slumps!
Opening up a discussion about what a new constitution should contain is very important. But to use all this flannel (from the Celtic "wlana" wool – as in pulled over eyes) as our starting point would be accepting a nationalist and mostly illusory explanation of the future.
The referendum creates an opportunity to adopt a fundamentally different approach to independence, self-government and self-determination and we should take it up now, not allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by the SNP's false dawn.
We have launched a discussion about an alternative view of self-determination for Scotland on A World to Win’s network. Let us know what you think.
28 November 2013