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A Constitution for the Common Good

A Constitution for the Common Good

Strengthening Scottish Democracy after the Independence Referendum

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Picking up where he left off in his book A Model Constitution, Bulmer argues that democracy, good governance, human rights and public values in Scotland are central to the constitutional future of Scotland. Providing a recent history of the Scottish Government’s Constitutional Policy since 2011, Bulmer asks what exactly is the ‘common good’ and what type of constitution would serve it, while also addressing questions of poverty, wealth, inequality and democracy. In this revised edition, Bulmer considers the results of the referendum and suggests some intermediate positions between devolution and independence following the No vote in September 2014.
Title A Constitution for the Common Good
Subtitle Strengthening Scottish Democracy after the Independence Referendum
Author W Elliot Bulmer
ISBN 9781910021743
Binding Paperback
Author Bio W ELLIOT BULMER graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2000. He joined the Royal Navy as a Logistics Officer and spent six months leading a special operations (PSYOPS) team in Iraq. On leaving the Navy in 2006 he embarked on postgraduate studies at the University of Glasgow, focusing on constitutional design, while teaching undergraduate courses in comparative politics, history of political thought and nationalism. In addition to his research he has since been involved in the Constitutional Commission, of where he was Research Director. Bulmer is now working for the Constitution Building Processes Global Programme at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, splitting his time between living in Scotland and The Hague, Netherlands.
Back Cover Text

Nearly every democracy in the world is built upon a written constitution, and constitutions have been at the core of citizens’ demands for better governance in places as disparate as Kenya, Tunisia and Ukraine. In light of developments following the independence referendum and the 2015 general election, constitutional change looks certain to remain central to the political agenda in Scotland for some time to come, and has entered the debate UK wide through calls for a federal system and David Cameron’s promise of English Votes for English Laws.

But what is a constitution for?

  • Is it a defensive charter to protect the basic structures of democratic government, or is it a transformative covenant for a better society? 
  • How can the constitution sustain democracy and promote ethical politics while at the same time recognising and accommodating differences in society?
  • What difference would a good constitution make to the poor?

 In addressing these questions, this book sets out a vision for how Scotland could reconstitute itself. It emphasises the connection between the constitution, democracy and the common good, arguing that democratic self-government is the true prize, regardless of the relationship of Scotland to the rest of the UK. This book not only makes a vital contribution to Scotland’s current and on-going constitutional debate, a debate that still rages despite the referendum result, but also engages with fundamental questions of constitutionalism and democracy that are of enduring relevance to both citizens and scholars around the world.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgements 6

Preface to the Second Edition 9

Introduction 13

Chapter One Does the Constitution still matter? 21

i Independence, Democracy and the Constitution 23
ii Independence, Sovereignty and Folkric 27
iii The Constitutional Debate before the Independence Referendum 29
iv Constitutionalism without Independence? 36
a A Federal United Kingdom 39
b A New Treaty of Union 45
c Home Rule 47

Chapter Two How can Constitutions promote the common good? 52

i The Common Good as the Purpose of the State 53
ii What is the Common Good? 58
iii Common Good, Pluralism and Pre-commitment 61
iv Political Liberty as a Common Good 65

Chapter Three How prescriptive should the Constitution be? 67

i The Case for Procedural Constitutionalism 67
ii The Limits of Prescriptive Constitutionalism 80
iii The Relationship between Procedural and Prescriptive Elements 84

Chapter Four How could the Constitution strengthen democracy? 93

i Direct Democracy 95
ii Representation and Inclusiveness 104
iii Second Chamber: Senate or Tribunate? 117
iv Local Democracy 124
v Democratising Parties 127

Chapter Five How can the Constitution promote good governance and accountability? 131

i Parliamentary Scrutiny and Fourth Branch Institutions 131
ii Recall and Popular Dissolution 139
iii Prime Ministerial Term Limits 143
iv Guarding the Guardians: Supervision of the Military and Security Services 146

Chapter Six How can the Constitution reflect our values and identities? 152

i The Preamble and Para-Consitutional Covenants 152
ii Religion and State 159
iii Monarchy and National Identity 170

Chapter Seven How can the Constitution help us to achieve social justice, tackle poverty and reduce inequality? 177

i Social and Economic Rights 177
ii Judicial or Political Enforcement 181
iii Beyond Rights: Empowering the People 184

Chapter Eight How can the Constitution promote public ethics? 187

i The need for Good Citizenship 188
ii Education for Citizenship 191
iii Principles of Public Life and Codes of Conduct 194
iv Public Honours 199

Chapter Nine How can we build a new constitutional settlement? 201

i Does process matter? 201
ii Stages of the process 208
iii Possible next steps 213

Appendices 219

Appendix A A Constitution for an Independent Scotland 221
Appendix B ‘A New Treaty of Union’ 270
Appendix C A Home Rule and Full Fiscal Autonomy Settlement for Scotland 277
Appendix D A Constitution for a Federal United Kingdom 284

Endnotes 325

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