General Principles

The Scottish Democratic Alliance believes that a fundamental reappraisal of the Scottish constitutional situation in its broadest sense is a matter of urgent and vital importance. On looking around it is hard to remember that it was Scots who taught the world constitutional government, because the level of constitutional illiteracy in the country is quite staggering. It is not simply a lack of knowledge of a fundamental law, but a lack of even the most basic sense of propriety in the conduct of public affairs. In what other country in the civilised world would – or could – a handful of politicians decide to build a new parliament building without as much as asking the elected representatives (in Westminster or Edinburgh) whether they wanted one? And, furthermore, have no sense of having done anything wrong?

There are two aspects of sovereignty that must be addressed: internal and external. There is the question of who is the sovereign authority within the state, and the question of Scottish national sovereignty in relation to the outside world. Following are a number of points relevant to both aspects:

 a) The Declaration of Arbroath of the year 1320, one of the earliest documents of the Scottish constitution, laid it down that the King of Scots (the then executive and head of state) was subject to the will of the Community of the Realm of Scotland, and could legally be deposed if he failed to carry out that will. The Declaration refers to "our kingdom", and not "the king's kingdom". The principle is crystal clear, and can easily be translated into terms of the modern executive. The expression "Community of Scotland", even in the sense in which it was understood in 1320, can be taken to include all the politically enfranchised members of the modern population.

 b) The Claim of Right of the year 1689 justified the deposition of King James VII by the Convention of Estates (the Scottish Parliament meeting on its own authority) on the ground that he had subverted the constitution of Scotland by turning a legal limited monarchy into an arbitrary despotism, and had thereby forfeited the right to the crown, which had become vacant. Here, again, it requires no revolutionary thinking to realise that, in this age of international democracy, the principle is eminently applicable to the current Scottish situation.

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Constitution Fundamentals

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