Quiz 6: The Scottish Government’s Proposed Constitutional Framework in an Independent Scotland

Quiz 6: The Scottish Government’s Proposed Constitutional Framework in an Independent Scotland

Purpose: This quiz will help develop knowledge and understanding of the proposed constitutional process for an independent Scotland if the referendum result is yes.

The quiz is the sixth of a series. The purpose of each quiz is to inform citizens of all ages, particularly school children and young people, so that citizens are able to make informed choices and participate in the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future leading to the 2014 referendum on independence.

The quiz series is part of a project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council at the University of Edinburgh and managed by Professor Stephen Tierney of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

Additional Resources:

Instructions: Read the following text and answer the multiple choice questions below. For further discussion refer to the research and discussion section after the multiple choice questions.

The Scottish Government’s Proposed Interim Constitution for an Independent Scotland

In the first quiz we learned about the different ways that a country could be governed and we learned that in the United Kingdom has an unwritten constitution – in other words we don’t have one single text that sets out the rules for government. Instead we need to look to history and the gradual development of our democracy over time through laws made by Parliament and practices that have developed through the centuries.

We also learned that the UK dramatically changed with the foundation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the system of government for Scotland which we call ‘devolution’ which was set out in a law called the Scotland Act 1998.

On 18 September 2014 there will be a referendum asking people to decide about Scotland’s constitutional future. In this referendum people will be asked to decide whether Scotland should be an independent country.

But if there is a Yes vote in the referendum, what will the constitution of an independent Scotland look like? Will it be unwritten like the UK constitution, or will it be very different?

This quiz looks at the Scottish Government’s plans for how Scotland would be governed if people vote for independence.

On 16th June the Scottish Government published an outline of what Scotland’s constitution might be like if Scotland votes yes in the referendum. The Government’s ideas are all set out in a document called, the Scottish Independence Bill: A Consultation on an Interim Constitution for Scotland.

This contains a plan for a constitution which would come into place on the day Scotland became independent – the plan would for independence to begin on 24 March 2016. This would be an ‘interim constitution’ because there would then be a broader discussion about creating a permanent constitution.

Let us look both at this planned ‘interim’ constitution and the plan for a ‘permanent constitution’.

An Interim Constitution

The temporary, or interim, constitution says that sovereignty belongs to the people of Scotland. This means that the power to make decisions about how Scotland is governed belongs to the people of Scotland. The temporary constitution also says that Scotland would keep the Queen as Head of State. The saltire flag would remain the national flag of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament would be able to decide what Scotland’s national anthem would be – this means there could be a new national anthem in the future. The temporary constitution also says that any nuclear weapons based in Scotland should be removed from Scotland as safely and quickly as possible.

In Quiz Number Three we learned about how the Scottish Parliament and public bodies in Scotland have to act in a way that respects European Union law and the human rights contained in the European Convention of Human Rights. The interim constitution also promises to continue to protect human rights and European Union law.

The interim constitution also provides rules for a new form of Scottish citizenship. So for example, if you are a British citizen living in Scotland, or a British citizen originally born in Scotland then you will become a Scottish citizen in an independent Scotland. The temporary constitution says that Scottish citizens will also be EU citizens.

The interim constitution also talks about Scotland’s position in the world. The Scottish Government could negotiate with international organisations. This would mean giving the Scottish Government the power to try to make sure Scotland would be a member of the United Nations, the European Union and other international bodies.

The interim constitution also makes some commitments about how Scottish society should operate. So for example, the constitution says that all people should be treated equally, that the Scottish Government and public bodies should seek to safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of children, that the needs of island communities should be taken into consideration, that the environment should be protected and that natural resources should be used in a sustainable way and in a way that benefits the people of Scotland.

One of the main difficulties about the Scottish Government’s proposals is that the suggested changes to the Scottish constitution would depend upon the UK Parliament agreeing to transfer more powers after the referendum (18 September 2014) and before independence day (24 March 2016). The UK Government has agreed to respect the outcome of the referendum, so if there is a Yes vote it is likely that it would help prepare Scotland for independence in this way. The details however would need to be agreed upon by the two governments.

A ‘permanent’ constitution for Scotland?

After March 2016 how would a permanent constitution for Scotland be prepared?

The Scottish Government has suggested that after independence day (24 March 2014), the Scottish Parliament would bring together a group of people to write a new constitution. In other words, Scotland would have a written constitution, set out in one document, unlike the UK at present.

The written constitution would be drawn up by a group of people called a ‘Constitutional Convention’. Constitutional Conventions are sometimes used to help countries look at, think about, and decide how best to govern the country. The Constitutional Convention in Scotland would be asked to do this for Scotland. The plan is still to be fully set out, but it would appear that the convention will not be composed only of politicians but should involve people from across society. Quiz number seven will look at this area in more detail.

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