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To debate the five principles of the Call for a Constitution

This petition had 38 supporters

We call on Members of the Scottish Parliament to debate in full session of parliament, the five values laid out in the poem ‘Call for a Constitution’:

• to respect and to care for the sacred
• to respect and to care for freedom of conscience
• to recognise the gift of every individual, to respect it care for it, nourish it
• to care for and protect communities
• to care for the land and wherever the land has been abused to restore it so that it can support all forms of life

We call on them to endorse them and act on them by carrying them into every area of constituency business.

Where is the contract by which we agree to accept the authority of a government?

The absence of a written constitution in the UK leaves the vast majority of people at the mercy of an authoritarian parliamentary class that can threaten our civil rights and liberties according to political whim and by simple majority. The right of redress is remote and expensive. This unhappy status quo is defended by the idea that it is impossible to define our common values and common identity. This petition challenges the laziness of that position. It proposes words to define that consent: words to bind governments, institutions and people into a common social contract. The aim of the words is to put people first, to define dimensions of human existence, and to propose that these values be paramount in any negotiation. We think they are fit for the 21st century: no other constitution in the world, for example, acknowledges our collective responsibility towards the planet.

This idea is aimed at the whole UK, but launched from Scotland because, in the run-up to the Independence referendum in 2014 in Scotland, there is an opportunity to define a new and better country. The status quo cannot stay as it is, and the political parties are seeking to alter and amplify the powers of government. The current government has drawn up a future constitution for the country. But where, amid all the political positioning, is there a voice for people?

A constitution must be framed by popular consent. It must originate outside politics, among people. How else could it represent them? This petition is intended as a challenge both to people and to members of parliament by suggesting a form of words that can frame an ‘Agreement of the People’. Given such an agreement, the values, rights and responsibilities they embody must then be reflected in the laws, the institutions and the whole behaviour of civic society.

The words themselves reflect the need to answer the question ‘what kind of country do you want to live in?’ with something more than a yes/no answer. They derive from discussions held over a number of years and represent a collective agreement. This book documents their public exposure in Scotland and the public response to them.

As I put the words, as you can see in the image, on the doors of Mike Forbes’ barn in Aberdeenshire, his sister, bringing me a cup of tea on a cold March day, said: ‘…if only it were that simple…’. But… why can’t it be that simple? A peoples’ agreement is bound to have that virtue: to be simple, memorable and universal. Not to be, as so much political discourse is, partial, secretive and complex.

The way that communities have accepted them across the country raises the question: if communities and individuals can agree to be bound by these values, then why can’t their political representatives, and why can’t the parliament as a whole? If Mike and Sheila Forbes agree to these words, and their MSP has also signed his agreement, then why cant the parliament act on them?

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