Mike Vickers' Blog

December 17, 2013

The Scotland’s Future states that given independence the government would create a Constitution

Filed under: History in the making, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:30 pm

I have been thinking for some time what form a constitution for Scotland could take.

I have considered:

  • the Constitution for Ireland in 1937
  • also a course I went to on the Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment and we touched on the preamble to the US Constitution which itself had taken advice from members of the Enlightenment.

These and many others focus on the fundamentals of equality, human rights and liberty.  These appealed to me and got me thinking.  I started with these ideas and what flows from them  and came up with the tree below (read left to right) (I freely admit to enhancing the tree as it now stands where some of these articles of considerations  look relevant to me)

Equality before the Law Justice Habeas Corpus
Trial by Jury
Gender and Race  
Opportunity Education
  Right to vote
Inalienable Rights Freedom Life Security  
    Welfare  
Personal Freedom Conscience Religion
Expression
For others as for yourself Family  
Democracy Civic Society
Right of Association
Commonweal
Charity  
Home      
Opportunity Possessions Land
Work
Leisure

 

I realise that this does not include some of the detailed clauses that have been suggested by the Scottish Government eg nuclear energy, NATO etc. and I will set out my reasons below.

Looking again at the tree it came to me that what I was targeting was human rights.  I therefore looked up the European Union’s Convention for Human Rights and I recognised immediately a close similarity.

An area I had personally most concern with was Property , something that Adam Smith consider inalienable, and I find that the EU was equally concerned, so much so that the first draft did not contain any mention of property.  Further investigation indicates the Right to Property is a concern of all such conventions on human rights.

Even Adam Smith stated in his Wealth of Nations
‘ Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality … Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”[6] (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations)’

So in my tree above, I have chosen to use Home, rather than Property as Home is what should be an inalienable right – but I also include Possessions   under a heading of Opportunities. And there is the very tricky question of current land ownership.  Land ownership in Scotland is a concern to many free thinking people, yet all declarations of human rights recognise that citizens have a legal right of ownership.  It therefore becomes a matter of politics on how land may be transferred between citizens – but more below.

Constitution and Politics

W Elliot Bulmer in his book A Model Constitution for Scotland follows much the same theme as I do in respect to human rights as the basis of his Model Constitution.  However he considers that it is also necessary to include in the Constitution a socio – economic dimension. But this may be because he takes as a tenet of any Scottish Constitution that Scotland would naturally be liberal democratic; and while I would hope this to be so this to me is a Political Decision.  In principle Scotland could become a Marxist state after Independence, certainly one well left of centre,  if this is the will of the people so be it,  provided only that the state adheres to  the Constitution as set out above.

I therefore consider that the Constitution should and must be above politics – the Constitution should focus only on the Human Rights of its citizens.

Looking again at Bulmer, he has a weighty section on the structure of Scotland’s Government eg its Executive and its Parliament.  This is of course necessary and he argues for a  consensual government rather than a  presidential one;  but Wiki in considering a Constitution considers the government of the state must respect and should be callable by its citizens to account to protect them and their rights’

Fundamental rights are a generally regarded set of legal protections in the context of a legal system, wherein such system is itself based upon this same set of basic, fundamental, or inalienable rights. Such rights thus belong without presumption or cost of privilege to all human beings under such jurisdiction. The concept of human rights has been promoted as a legal concept in large part owing to the idea that human beings have such “fundamental” rights, such that transcend all jurisdiction, but are typically reinforced in different ways and with different emphasis within different legal systems.

Governments and their structures come and go; if we take the Westminster Government, it only a year ago that the question as to whether voting should change to an AV system was voted on.

To reiterate the Constitution as set out above is the foundation upon which the Government of the State should be built.

There are many questions that remain subservient to the Constitution for which the Government of the day are responsible for.  Examples are:

  • what are the physical boundaries of the State?  Some people of the North East have indicated a desire to join an Independent Scotland.
  • considering International relations – this is a difficult issue considering that I was brought under the ‘Christian’ ethic of ‘For others as for yourself’ – how do we resolve the situation that 2/3 of the world are much poorer than Scotland.  I suggest the need for charity but there is the old adage ‘charity begins at home’
  • At a lesser level the Scottish Government proposes to say No to nuclear power, but would it reject nuclear fusion if this comes to fruition.
  • in these cash strapped times not all aspects of the Constitutional tree can be given equal weight and funding.  It is the Government of the day to come forward with a balanced budget that it on behalf of its mandate it believes the most appropriate but this is the knob of politics.  A very current example is the NHS, how much of the total budget should be allocated to it  and how should the NHS spread  the resources it is provided with

At a higher level are the rules for Commerce.  Here I attach a section from the Irish articles

  • Everyone has the right to an adequate      occupation.
  • The free market and private property must be      regulated in the interests of the common good.
  • The state must prevent a destructive      concentration of essential commodities in the hands of a few.
  • The state must supplement private industry      where necessary.
  • The state should ensure efficiency in private      industry and protect the public against economic exploitation.
  • The state must protect the vulnerable, such as      orphans and the aged.
  • No one may be forced into an occupation      unsuited to their age, sex or strength

These would plug into what I have in the structure above as Inalienable Rights > Opportunities > Work

It could be argued in going down to the Work level itself in the Constitution I am going down too far.

In summary there needs to be fundamental articles of the Constitution which are inalienable; set in concrete for at least the next 100 years and these articles need to set sufficiently general so that below them a country has the flexibility of manoeuvre.  A prime consideration is Taxation and where it should rest in terms of its citizens and its commercial interests.

The Constitution should be above Politics.  .

If this point is true then Scotland has a Constitution already if it becomes a member of the EU and that is the European Convention of Human Rights itself.  Bulmer says that the EU Convention is not precise enough and he will know better than I, but then his book takes as a starting point that Scotland needs its own constitution.

Mary McAleese at the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Filed under: Europe, Ireland, Scotland, World Class — derryvickers @ 12:31 pm

What can I say – a tour de force – covering her life and Irish times over 50 years.
1 ½ hours non-stop.  No wonder she is an honorary fellow of the RSE.

From being born on the wrong side of the street in Belfast to taking a master’s degree in Catholic Canon Law in Rome and meeting the Pope, passing through on the way, graduating in law at Queens Belfast, Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity Dublin, back to Queens as Pro-Vice-Chancellor, deeply involved in the peace process and two terms as President of Ireland and bringing the Queen to Dublin.

Points she made:

  1. Daniel O’Connell her hero
  2. She chose Law rather than the IRA when her family was driven out of house and home by the B Specials.  Why Criminal Law – ‘don’t enjoy just do it’
  3. Moved to Dublin – expected to find the city of freedom at the end of the rainbow – everything sweetness and catholic light – wrong – Dublin was a place of elites – what’s new!
  4. While as Pro-vice Chancellor one of her tasks was to broaden the teaching base from protestant males to include Catholics and women – she succeeded with the Catholics but much less successful with the women
  5. She took time out to be a TV presenter on current affairs with RTV to get out and about away from Dublin from Kerry to Donegal.
  6. She recalls the 50 year celebrations of the battle of the Somme and the Easter uprising on the same day.  She makes the point that 250,000 Irishmen mainly Catholics fought with the Brits in WWI and 50,000 died and those who did return were outcasts.  Things are so much better now with Irish attending the Cenotaph.
  7. She is particularly caustic on ‘history’ – how it is manipulated to meet the required political standpoint.
  8. To the spade work before the Good Friday agreement she praises the work of a Catholic priest Alec Reid (who died in November) as the originator and go between, between Catholic and protestant fighters; fighters who realised that there were going to be no winners, only long term prisoners.  She also praises the leaders John Major and Albert Reynolds – leaders who had little ego to get in the way of doing business.  On the Irish side Jerry Adams was the man to bring the IRA on board ably supported by John Hume who for his troubles suffered the wrath of God from the SDLP.  A point worth noting in this media driven world, these talks were secret and had to be secret.
  9. As President she has entertained the Orange order.  She delights in the fact that the apprentice boy celebrations in Londonderry are now a carnival where everyone Catholics and Protestants joins in.  The killing of two policemen by the Real IRA did not cause an immediate response from the protestant gangs.  But she recognises that Belfast is at least as badly segregated as it ever was.
  10. And while she respects the Northern Irish right to their own homeland she is happy at some time in the future if they vote for a United Ireland
  11. She retold how she worked over a number of years to get the Queen to Dublin and how it all nearly fell apart when the arrangements were being finalised and the Irish parliament collapsed.  But in the end the 4 day event went ahead as a total success and the Queen came as equal and did honour to the Irish dead of so many years and particularly the Easter rising.
  12. The EU came up only once and that was that the EU was the only Union that Ireland had joined voluntarily!
  13. So to her current activity – the master’s degree in Canon Law.  Her interest is particularly in children’s rights.  She sees no women cardinals in her lifetime but recognises that Pope Francis brought a big spoon with him when he journeyed from Argentina.  However she laughs when he plans to convene a conference on family values in modern times composed of 200 celibate men!
  14. There was little time for questions and the one that got her going was one on the death of shipbuilding in Belfast and the Clyde.  40% of the young people in Europe are unemployed and as the old adage goes ‘Satan finds work for idle hands’.  With Belfast in the past it was the catholic youth who had no work – now it’s all youth.  In Ireland it’s back to the emigration from the short pause of the Celtic Tiger.  Youth require work and dignity.  She recalls a recent visit to the US where education is leaving young people with debts of $250,000 and no work at the end.  But she is not advocating an end to education.
  15. Towards the finish of her talk Mary McAleese repeatedly came back to the theme of good neighbours; England and Ireland and she did not forget to mention Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  It’s all matter of building bridges and this has to be taken calmingly and slowly – after all England has been holding Ireland down for hundreds of years.  She used the work incubation.

It was the first time I have been at the RSE where the proceedings finished with a standing ovation; and totally deserved.

December 10, 2013

Mandela

Filed under: Communications, In Our Time, Journalism, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:18 pm

From the high flying oratory of Obama that brings tears to my eyes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service

To the arch cynicism of Simon Jenkins and I can’t repress a chuckle

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/10/mandela-coverage-banality-of-goodness

And finally to the cold reality of Okwonga

http://www.okwonga.com/?p=869

What a day!

And all thanks to one man: Mandela

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