A Constitution for the Common Good

A Constitution for the Common Good

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Strengthening Democracy after the Independence Referendum

W. Elliot Bulmer

ISBN: 1st Edition - 9781910021095; 2nd Edition - 9781910021743

Binding: paperback

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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


Academically insightful… Bulmer’s book is a rare example of a treatise on constitutional politics aimed at the general reader.  The Scotsman on A Constitution for the Common Good

Dr W. Elliot Bulmer is one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional matters.  Sunday Herald