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Don't confuse political aspirations with our constitutional principles

John Scott Roy is right (Letters, January 18).

The time to draft a written constitution for an independent Scotland is now, to give the Scottish people who will vote in next year's referendum a clear vision of what an independent Scotland could aspire to.

I would suggest Canon Kenyon Wright or some similarly esteemed independent person be asked to convene another constitutional convention to draft such a document. This task should not be entrusted to professional politicians. A constitution is a statement of fundamental democratic principles, not a party political manifesto.

First and foremost, Scotland's constitution would make clear that ultimate sovereignty lies with the people, and would guarantee their basic democratic rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religious beliefs and the right to vote would be among the obvious subjects to be covered. Matters currently suggested by the First Minister as the right to have a home and the right to free education and health care are certainly laudable political aspirations, but they are not constitutional principles.

At national level, the draft constitution would set out the basic principles of governance and the relationships between Parliament, the people and the head of state, but not the minutiae of day-to-day procedures. It would lay down the conditions under which the nation could be taken to war, how it could defend itself and whether or not it should have nuclear weapons. And it would have to resolve what may become a vexed question, whether future monarchs should continue to be head of state and their relationship with Scotland's Parliament and people.

It is claimed the drafting of the American constitution, which has now lasted successfully for almost 250 years, was greatly influenced by our own 1320 Declaration of Arbroath.

Surely we in Scotland of all places should now be able to rise above the political squabbling and produce a modern constitution setting out the future for our country as an independent nation again? It's time to get on with it.

Iain AD Mann,

7 Kelvin Court,

Glasgow.

Alex Salmond said he was putting forward ideas for discussion, rather than attempting to frame a draft constitution, when he addressed the Foreign Press Association ("First Minister accused of a shift on EU membership", The Herald, January 17).

However, he appeared to forget the distinction between constitutional rights, which are inalienable, immediately realisable and universal within the jurisdiction concerned, and desirable proposals to be contained within a manifesto or prospectus.

There was some value, in that he appeared to recognise there would be no automatic EU entry, and that, in referring to German reunification, he seemed to imply he took a proportionate view of the forthcoming referendum and it was not "once and for all" after all.

Now it appears to be suggested some proposals brought forward will be impervious to amendment when in force (Letters, January 18). This cannot be. One need look only to the US to see this. All constitutional provisions are subject to amendment according to the will of a later electorate.

What is baffling is: why the need to discuss any form of draft constitution?

The position is that, according to all available evidence, including but not limited to the poll published in The Herald, Scottish independence is highly unlikely to come about ("Blow to SNP as support for independence stalls", The Herald, January 14).

In the highly unlikely event it does, there would be a gap of two years between the poll and the next Holyrood elections, which would allow adequate time for consultation and discussion. This applies equally to the proposal for pre-referendum discussions put forward by Nicola Sturgeon which the Government has quite rightly declined.

The Westminster Parliament has granted powers to the devolved administration in terms of section 30 of the 1998 Act, with both houses showing unanimity in doing so. Subject to the approval of the Privy Council, which is formal, this grant of powers is watertight.

All that remains is to ask Alex Salmond to give consideration to bringing the referendum poll date forward from the projected autumn 2014 date and give the people of Scotland the certainty they so badly need.

John McAleer,

24 Clelland Avenue, Bishopbriggs.

I noted with interest the Premier of Quebec is to visit Scotland later this month and will have talks with the First Minister ("Premier of Quebec in Scotland trip", The Herald, January 17). Alex Salmond has been quoted as saying: "We don't look for any exact parallels."

The exactitude of the parallels may be up for debate. However, there are some aspects of the experience in Quebec which are worth commenting upon in the context of the situation in Scotland with the 2014 referendum pending.

The May 1980 referendum in Quebec resulted in an approximately 60/40 split of the vote with the majority voting against independence. It is difficult to argue that was not a convincing test of public opinion at that time. However, 15 years later the No vote was only 1% or so more than the Yes vote. That can only be regarded as a close-run thing.

One wonders what the results on the stability and future wellbeing of Quebec would have been if that marginal result in 1995 had gone the other way and a substantial part of the population had been taken into the brave new world of independence against their express wishes.

Recent opinion polls are predicting a substantial majority No vote in Scotland. One cannot rule out the SNP in future years calling in aid the results of the referenda in Quebec where, after a period of 15 years, a clear defeat for the proponents of a Yes vote subsequently became a marginal loss.

They could well maintain that the cherry will justify more than one bite, as at least one SNP MSP has already mooted.

Ian W Thomson,

38 Kirkintilloch Road,

Lenzie.

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