Patrick Harvie: Scots constitution the right move

Partick Harvie. Picture: TSPL
Partick Harvie. Picture: TSPL
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FAR from being a threat to freedoms, the debate about a written constitution for Scotland offers the chance of a far more positive human rights culture.

You don’t have to look far in UK politics or media to find a slightly chippy, resentful attitude to human rights. A suspicion has grown in recent years that the notion of rights is an import and out of step with our traditions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The modern expression of our rights, through documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has come to form part of the moral basis of society, and the European Convention on Human Rights now has standing in domestic law.

But they don’t exist in a vacuum. The UK has hundreds of years of constitutional documentation, which provides the context within which our modern rights culture has developed.

If Scotland votes for independence in 2014, the development and adoption of a written constitution could assert the positive value of human rights as a concept which protects us all.

Opening up a public debate about the idea that globally-agreed documents on human, economic, social, cultural and political rights might form part of a written constitution would not take us away from the international consensus which exists on the rights of individuals. Quite the reverse, it would represent a clear and assertive public endorsement of that consensus.

If we add further propositions for debate, such as a constitutional prohibition on weapons of mass destruction, we would be adding to the global debate on the future development of the moral basis for modern societies.

n Patrick Harvie MSP is co-convener of the Scottish Greens.