The Scotland We Seek
ALBA does not believe an independent Scotland should be a country just for independence supporters. It is not a country for political parties, or for the wealthy and connected, or for big business, or for the central belt or cities. An independent Scotland is for everyone who chooses this beautiful country for their home – with no exceptions. That simple philosophy is at the heart of the country we want to build.
Its constitution must make its people powerful.
Its national democracy must serve all political views.
Its local democracy must serve all communities, everywhere.
Its currency must serve its economy.
Its relationship with Europe must be positive and reciprocal.
Its contribution to the world must make us proud of who we are.
To make this happen we need to prepare. Shaping an independent Scotland into this kind of nation does not start after the day of our independence, nor the day after a referendum – but on the day after this election.
We believe that means:
- The National Commission for Scotland will be given the remit of designing Scotland's institutions so that they are ready and fit for purpose for the first government of an independent Scotland (whomever that should be) and every subsequent government after that (whomever those should be). That includes everything from its civil service and its judicial system, to its coastguard and overseas embassies.
- As well as preparing a full plan for building a new Scotland, The National Commission for Scotland's Independence will also be asked to look for tasks which can be started immediately, so as much of the work of building a new Scotland can be prepared, and even completed, as quickly as possible.
- We need to get Scotland’s independence framework ready for when a referendum is won, with Scotland seeking a fresh start, with Scotland and the rest of the UK keeping the assets which are territorially based, and the rest of the UK keeping everything else – including all non territorial assets and liabilities.
- That includes beginning preparations for a Scottish Central Bank and a new currency for Scotland so that they can be in place as soon as is possible when Scotland becomes independent. This will involve running a dual currency over a period, with Sterling as an internationally tradable currency still an accepted denomination for all private sector assets and liabilities.
- In 2014 Scotland would have started negotiations on the independence settlement from within not just the European Union, but the single market and customs union.
- In 2021 the context is totally different. European access will have to be negotiated from outside. Scotland could reasonably expect to go through an accelerated process of accession, but this would still be a matter of years not months. Nor would negotiations be easy, with Scotland, unless taking action to find a secure starting position, being forced to negotiate from a position of weakness, not strength.
The solution is to fix the economics and only then turn to the politics. There are opportunities for readmission to the single market and indeed the European Economic Area, which potentially could yield results in months, not years. It is the proposal of ALBA that Scotland should seek to negotiate that European position, at least informally, simultaneously with negotiating independence with Westminster. The secure position that Scotland should be looking for, is membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and through EFTA, membership of the single market and the European Economic Area. In addition, as an interim proposal at least, it may be beneficial to stay within a customs union of the UK nations and certainly within the common travel area across the British Isles, first established in 1923 with the foundation of the Irish Free State. In due course, the Scottish people could then take a judgement on the best established position for Scotland as a European nation, having secured the tradable economic base of the country.
The Scotland we seek is a Western European democracy, operating in co-operation with its neighbours in the British Isles and beyond, through international organisations. Our defence posture will be non nuclear and we will remove weapons of mass destruction from Scottish territory at the earliest feasible date.
ALBA believes that the Scottish Parliament should immediately signal its intent of European engagement by applying for observer status in the parliamentary wing of the Nordic Council and the Strasbourg Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“A Written Constitution for Scotland
will be the most important document since 1320,
The People not Parliament as sovereign”
It is taken for granted in the independence movement that “The people of Scotland are sovereign.” If our form of government is to be different from the one that has dominated us for over 300 years, then that statement has to be detached from rhetoric and made a legal construct.
That can only be done when that assertion is made concrete in the first Article of a written constitution that is, itself, the fundamental law of an independent Scotland.
There can be no ambiguity. The sovereignty of the people means the people are superior to the Parliament, the Executive and all other public and private organisations.
A singular advantage of a written constitution which starts with “the people are sovereign,” is that it empowers any citizen or group of citizens to challenge parliamentary, government, other public or private body’s action, if any measure they take infringes the rights of the people as set out in the constitution.
The United States is a classic example. The Constitution is above all parts of the government. The citizen above the government. That is what Scotland should aim for.
At first hand it appears a dry subject, not one calculated to get the adrenalin pumping, yet it will be the most important document published in Scotland since the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
It is a signal of just how serious ALBA is about achieving independence, not as an extension of the status quo under the Saltire rather than the Union flag, but as a transformation of our nation to a different, better, more just Scotland. A new Scotland.
What has set ALBA apart is that it is serious about independence. It has a strategy to gain independence, has developed a new economic policy on which the post Covid recovery will be anchored, and that it is thinking of what will need to be done when independence is gained.
ALBA’s policy is that the Scottish Parliament should refer the setting out of the principles and framework of a written constitution to a Citizens’ Assembly. This should build on the work of the Scottish Sovereign Research Group and appoint a full range of expert advisors. These principles and framework should be ready for study, development and decision in a final draft by a Constitutional Convention, formed in the first three months of independence.
The Citizens’ Assembly will not face a simple task, even aided by the work of its advisors. If a written constitution is to endure over the generations, and not become the plaything of future politicians who will not like its restraints, it must be anchored in principles, values and wisdom.
The Citizens’ Assembly getting to grips with the contentious issues, and clearing the way to getting the fundamental principles right, will be of great value when a Constitutional Convention comes to do the final work.
When the people are free, we must fashion the instruments with which we are to govern ourselves: a constitution setting limits to the power of the parliament in relation to the citizen’s rights; the division of powers; the extent of those powers between the parliament and the executive; the franchise; the electoral system; freedom of speech; religious freedom; a free media; independence of the judiciary; how judges are appointed; the relationship between government, police and people, and the principles and values that self-describe the nation we want the international community to see.
When sovereignty is won, the most important post-independent action will be the engagement of the people in framing the fundamental law, the supreme law, in the written constitution, by which this nation will govern itself.