The Constitutional Convention shaped the Scottish Parliament, but it left important aspects of its aims unfinished.
Now the clarity and conviction with which the SH editorial spelled out the case for support for independence, confirmed for me my growing certainty that only a Yes vote in September will complete that unfinished business, and allow the new Scotland of our hopes to emerge.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to finish the job. This time Willie McIlvanney's "cowardly lion" must not slink back into its cage for fear of the freedom outside.
At three important points, the Convention failed to achieve in its aims.
The first was in its founding principle, the "Claim of Right" with which the Convention began in 1989. When politicians and worthy citizens lined up to sign that they acknowledged "the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide how they will be governed", were they visionary, mendacious or merely opportunistic, caught up in the euphoria of the exciting moment?
I find it hard to believe that Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, Menzies Campbell, and all their party colleagues, were not aware the Claim of Right was a direct rejection of the fundamental principle of the UK (really English) constitution, namely the absolute sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament.
In Scotland's affairs, final power lies either with the people of Scotland or with the Parliament and Government in Westminster. It cannot be both.
It was no accident that the proposal to begin with such a historic constitutional claim came from the Churches' representatives. The reason was partly because of a seminal "Report in the Government of Scotland" by the Kirk's General Assembly, which closely analysed the problems and concluded "Any new constitutional settlement to ensure the democratic control of Scotland's affairs must be built upon philosophical foundations that are more coherent and credible than the notions which underpin the existing British Constitution
The failure lay in what I call the "imposed inconsistency". We claimed the people's right to decide on governance, but went on to leave such matters reserved to Westminster
For many years, I held out the naïve "triumph of hope over experience" that the UK Parliament might be ready to reform itself radically enough to recognise Scotland's real autonomy. That door has been slammed shut - not least by the imposed denial of the possibility of a 2nd question on the ballot, for which I argued for years. There is now only one way to finish that business - it must be Yes.
The second bit of unfinished business is the fact that the Convention was compelled to abandon its "adamant" intention "that the powers of the Scottish Parliament, once established must be entrenched so that they cannot be altered without the consent of the Parliament representing the people of Scotland" Here too we failed - and the UK Government has made the historic mistake of leaving independence as the only way to achieve that security.
The third piece of unfinished business is probably the most important. The Convention saw a Scottish parliament as a means, not an end. It was to be "different from the rituals of Westminster, more open, more participative, less needlessly confrontational".
I believe the Sunday Herald echoes this view of independence as a means to better governance, participative politics, and a remodelled democracy. Of course there is no guarantee that independence will achieve these things, but it certainly is unattainable without it. The present devolved Parliament is a great improvement on the bankrupt Westminster system, but it still has to operate within the straitjacket of that system's assumptions. "Power devolved is power retained" Devolution is Power as a Gift; Independence is Power as a Right" We need the freedom to shape our own destiny, make out own rules, and make our own mistakes
If the verdict in September is Yes, there most be vigilance in shaping together the new Constitution, recognising that this is no theoretical document, but the basis for all the powers that affect our daily lives and prosperity, and allow us to develop the caring society which the SH editorial so clearly identified.
Mine has been a long and difficult journey from the Convention to Independence, as the gateway to real interdependence. The issue is not whether we are better together. Our common history and geography bind us firmly together whatever the result of the Referendum. No, the issue is what kind of togetherness we want. Is it to be that of a junior member of the family? Or is to be the togetherness of an adult, still bound by firm ties of affection and experience, but making our own decisions in our own home?
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