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Let us open up the debate on a post-independence constitution

A WRITTEN constitution for an independent Scotland is a necessity ("Salmond puts forward his vision of rights for Scotland", The Herald, January 17).

It is high time that a suggested version, or several, is put forward during the period before the referendum. It would not be perfect nor would it necessarily be the one finally adopted, but it would give the people a far better understanding of what the country could be like and thus help them to make an informed decision, one way or the other.

There will need to be intense discussion about what exactly the constitution contains. It is vital that this is not limited to political parties or vested interests. It must include as many people as possible who want to join in that discussion.

The single item that must precede all others is the principle of the sovereignty of the people. The second item must be the statement that that principle can never, under any circumstances, be altered.

That principle has logical ramifications that most people, I believe, do not appreciate. For example, a parliament may be elected to direct the management of the country but it cannot be elected to control the country. Under the principle above, a sub-group of the people cannot be superior to the whole and cannot have absolute authority over the whole.

The constitution must therefore contain statements on the limits of authority of a government (for want of a better word) and the right of individuals and groups to challenge any decision made by that government.

There are other instances of principle that should be discussed before any consideration is given to suggestions such as education, housing and so on.

John Scott Roy,

42 Galloway Avenue,

Ayr.

AS a regular commuter to and from London for business purposes, I am often asked about the forthcoming independence referendum. I have also spent much of the last 12 months commuting to Dublin and again our referendum was a regular topic of conversation. At all times the discussions I have had with English and Irish friends have been polite, calm, and rational. If only our politicians could achieve this same standard of discussion.

Earlier this week I had the misfortune to be delayed at Stansted for much of the evening and spent the time following the Section 30 debate at Westminster via Twitter. Clearly our elected MPs have forgotten their New Year resolution to raise the tone of the debate which they are conducting on our behalf.

Glasgow Labour MPs Anas Sarwar and Ian Davidson in particular ought to hang their heads in shame. Robust political debate and championing of one's views are to be expected, but engaging in the sort of extreme comments which these two did is disgraceful.

Mr Sarwar's description of the Scottish Parliament as an undemocratic place and a dictatorship of one man sitting in Bute House is so far detached from reality as to beggar belief. If a PR-based parliament is undemocratic, then what are we to make of the place in which Mr Sarwar was speaking?

Mr Davidson's remarks about the anniversary of Bannockburn being a celebration of the murder of hundreds of thousands of English people was even more surreal. Is this man seriously suggesting that armed combatants in a war are involved with murder when they engage their enemy? He might not be aware of the fact but in the 14th century Scotland and England were at war.

But his reasoning is troubling in a 21st rather than a 14th century context. What of current Scottish troops in Afghanistan? Using his logic they could be considered murderers. Is he seriously suggesting that those of us who wear poppies or take part in Remembrance Day activities each November are glorifying the murder of Germans? No, he was spouting utter nonsense.

While MPs may consider themselves poorly paid, those of us footing the bill think they are paid relatively generously and we are entitled to expect much better than this from those we employ to represent us.

Extremist rhetoric of this sort does nothing but undermine the credibility of those who engage in it.

If Messrs Davidson and Sarwar are serious about encouraging us to vote No next year, they need to radically rethink their approach.

Domhnall Dods,

Carrick Gardens,

Livingston.

IT would take bold action indeed to transform Alex Salmond's vision that Scots would have a constitutional right to a home in an independent Scotland into reality at a time when Scotland is in housing crisis.

Despite 160,000 people being on housing waiting lists, new households projected to form at an annual rate of 21,000 over the coming years and our population being at its highest ever level, a total of only 15,000 new homes were built in 2011 – a 40% decrease since 2007 and the lowest level since the Second World War.

And, to make matters worse, Scotland's home building industry is facing the imposition of additional construction costs of as much as £10,000 per home should new energy standard proposals be implemented – all for a total 0.07% contribution to overall climate change targets. This would only cripple an already-fragile industry and further adversely affect the future delivery of desperately-needed warm, sustainable homes – whether for sale or social rent. The negligible benefit involved simply does not justify the cost to jobs, Scotland's social well-being or the wider economy.

Whilst we wholeheartedly share the First Minister's view on the fundamental importance of housing, he will need to take some bold, decisive actions and give it the top priority it needs if he is to have any chance on delivering this constitutional pledge.

Philip Hogg,

Chief Executive,

Homes for Scotland,

5 New Mart Place, Edinburgh.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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