Foundations for Freedom: A discussion paper on the process for establishing an independent Scotland’s Constitution

Overview —

This paper discusses the principles on which an independent Scotland should found the writing of a formal constitution as well as the method by which such a constitution could be determined by the people of Scotland via citizens’ assemblies and a referendum.

An example constitution for Scotland is included for the purposes of opening such a discussion.


Dr W. Elliot Bulmer


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The case for Scottish independence depends upon an independent Scotland being a healthy, robust democracy. A strong, inclusive and reassuring constitutional foundation is necessary to ensure that. The Constitution is central, not peripheral, to making the case for independence.


― Although some conservative academics continue to defend the British doctrine of parliamentary absolutism, theoretical arguments against constitutionalism appear to be increasingly irrelevant in Scotland. A written Constitution is the international norm. It is expected and demanded. No matter, therefore, how far-fetched the idea of adopting a written Constitution might be in the UK as a whole, in the context of an independent Scotland it has become a basic necessity.

― The Scottish independence movement, both within and beyond the SNP, has long recognised this. The SNP, as well as the Scottish Green Party and a broad range of civil society organisations have publicly recognized that a Constitution is not an optional extra, but an essential basis for the legitimacy, stability, success and longevity of Scottish democracy post-independence. In asking for clear commitments to be made to a constitutional transition process, we are not asking for a change of policy, but for an undertaking to honour longstanding promises.

― The best course of action is to develop a fully worked Provisional Constitution, by means of a Constitutional Conference, before the next referendum. The Constitutional Conference should be as representative as possible and as open and inclusive in its activities as possible, so that even if the Unionist politicians choose to boycott the Conference it has broad public legitimacy (akin to that achieved by the Constitutional Convention in the 1990s despite the absence of the SNP and Conservatives). The next independence referendum would then be held on the specific question of approving the Constitution approved by the Constitutional Conference – which Constitution would, if approved, come into effect on independence day. That Constitution would provide the institutional and legal basis for a Scottish State, at least on a provisional basis.

― However, the Provisional Constitution need not be a final settlement. There would be scope for a subsequent period of post independence constitution-making, by means of an inclusive and participatory process, in which the issues that are avoided by the Conference in the name of stability and expediency – like, for example, the question of a republic or the expansion of socio-economic rights – could be addressed, should there be sufficient public demand.

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