Updated: Oct 6
The concept of a unitary state with multiple nations is indeed a complex one. In the case of the United Kingdom, it is considered a unitary state because the power is ultimately held by the central government in Westminster. However, this centralization of power is complicated by the fact that there are four nations within the UK, each with their own distinct legal systems, cultural identities, and historical experiences.
This has led to tension and disagreement, particularly with regard to the distribution of power and the assertion of national sovereignty. In Scotland, for example, there has been a long-standing desire for greater autonomy and independence, which has at times been at odds with the power of the Westminster government.
It is true that this situation creates inherent contradictions, and it can be difficult to reconcile the desire for national sovereignty with the reality of a centralised state. However, it is important to recognize that the situation is constantly evolving, and different solutions may be possible in the future.
Ultimately, it is up to the people and their representatives to navigate these complex issues and determine the best path forward. It is important to remember that the relationships between the different nations within a unitary state are dynamic and multifaceted, and that they require ongoing negotiation and dialogue in order to function effectively.
The following two passages are from Aidan O'Neill QC's 2016 submission to the UK Supreme Court on behalf of THE INDEPENDENT WORKERS UNION OF GREAT BRITAIN (IWGB) regarding the Gina Miller initiated case against the British government over its authority to implement Brexit without parliamentary approval. Aidan O'Neill QC provides an interesting perspective on Scottish constitutional law and the UK Constitutional Court.
In his submission, Aidan O'Neill QC highlights that the 1707 Parliamentary union between England and Scotland created a new state, but not one nation. The union ensured the depoliticization of Scotland but put into place measures intended to protect and strengthen other aspects of Scotland's continuing nationhood. The Scots' acceptance of the Union in 1707 maintained Scotland's nationhood, and as a result, any sovereignty in the British parliament could not be national sovereignty.
Moreover, in the 300 years of the 1707 Union, the English constitutional tradition has been the dominant influence, but a distinct Scottish constitutional tradition has never entirely been lost and may even be said to have been revived by the devolutionary settlement for Scotland. Thus, while Dicey and Bagehot, Coke and Blackstone may be reliable guides to the English constitutional tradition, their views are not necessarily determinative or reflective of what the UK constitution now is.
Aidan O'Neill QC argues that in the early modern period, models of constitutional government were expressed in the terms of political theology, with the religious being political. In Scotland, at least, the term "Papist" translates into a believer in absolutist government, "Episcopalian" into a supporter of constitutionally limited monarchy, and "Presbyterians" into a democratic model in which the electors delegate defined and limited powers to those whom they appoint to hold office.
Imagine a country where citizens have a direct say in how their government functions. Where they can propose new legislation, initiate a constitutional amendment, and hold their elected officials accountable. A country where government decisions are made with transparency, and corruption is almost non-existent. Sounds like a utopia, doesn't it? But it's not. The Swiss, Norwegian, and Estonian models of governance have shown us that it's possible to have a government that truly represents the people. And with the help of technology, the People's Assembly could combine the best elements of each model to create a new country that truly serves its citizens.
Swiss Model: Direct Democracy
Switzerland is known for its direct democracy model, where citizens have the right to propose legislation and constitutional amendments, and to vote on them in referendums.
The Swiss model is based on the principle that the people are the ultimate source of power in a democracy. The Swiss government serves as an administrative body that carries out the will of the people, rather than making decisions on their behalf.
The Swiss model has been successful in creating a highly participatory and engaged citizenry. Swiss citizens are regularly called upon to vote on a wide range of issues, from taxes to
environmental policies. The result is a government that is truly accountable to the people.
Norwegian Model: Social Democracy
Norway is known for its social democratic model of governance, where the government provides a comprehensive social safety net for its citizens. The Norwegian model is based on the principle that everyone has the right to basic needs such as healthcare, education, and a decent standard of living. The government is responsible for ensuring that these needs are met, and that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
The Norwegian model has been successful in creating a highly equal and prosperous society. Norway consistently ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of quality of life, education, and healthcare.
Estonian Model: E-Governance
Estonia is known for its e-governance model, where citizens can access government services online. The Estonian model is based on the principle that the government should be transparent, efficient, and accessible to all citizens. The Estonian government has created a wide range of e-services, including online voting, e-taxation, and e-health services.
The Estonian model has been successful in creating a government that is transparent and accessible to all citizens. Citizens can access government services from anywhere in the world, making it easier to participate in the democratic process.
So how does this help us?
The People's Assembly could incorporate elements of the Swiss model by creating a system where citizens can propose new legislation or constitutional amendments by collecting signatures and submitting their proposal to the Assembly. The proposal would then be subject to a vote, with all citizens eligible to participate. This would ensure that the people are truly the ultimate source of power in the new country.
The People's Assembly could incorporate elements of the Norwegian model by creating a comprehensive social safety net for its citizens. This could include universal healthcare, education, and a guaranteed basic income. By ensuring that everyone has access to basic needs, the new country would be able to create a more equal and prosperous society.
The People's Assembly could incorporate elements of the Estonian model by creating an e-governance platform that allows citizens to access government services online. This could include online voting, access to government documents, and a system for submitting proposals and petitions. By creating a transparent and accessible government, the new country would be able to ensure that all citizens have a voice in the democratic process.
Combining the Models?
In this section, we will dive deeper into how the People's Assembly is proposing to incorporate elements of the Swiss, Norwegian, and Estonian governance models to create a new country.
The Swiss model provides a great starting point for the People's Assembly's proposed governance structure, particularly in terms of direct democracy. Swiss citizens are able to initiate constitutional amendments or propose new legislation by collecting signatures and submitting their proposal to the national parliament. If a proposal garners enough signatures, it is put to a nationwide vote, and if it passes, it becomes law.
The People's Assembly aims to take this idea a step further by incorporating blockchain technology and a decentralised platform to create a more transparent and secure voting process. By utilising a distributed ledger, votes and proposals can be recorded immutably, making it nearly impossible to tamper with the results. This would create a more trustworthy and accountable system that puts power directly in the hands of the people.
In addition to direct democracy, the People's Assembly also aims to incorporate elements of the Norwegian model. Norway has a strong social safety net, providing healthcare, education, and pensions to all citizens. This safety net is made possible by the country's oil wealth, which is managed by a sovereign wealth fund that invests in various industries worldwide. The fund is overseen by a separate government agency that is responsible for ensuring its long-term viability.
The People's Assembly proposes to create a similar sovereign wealth fund, but instead of relying on natural resources, it would be funded by a small tax on financial transactions, as well as a wealth tax on the top 1% of earners. This would provide a stable source of income for the country's social safety net, while also ensuring that the country's wealth is not concentrated in the hands of a few individuals.
Finally, the People's Assembly also aims to incorporate elements of the Estonian model. Estonia has developed a highly digitalized government system, with nearly all government services available online. Citizens are able to access their personal records, vote, and even start a business entirely online. The country's government services are also highly secure, utilising blockchain technology and a decentralised system to ensure that personal information is kept safe.
The People's Assembly aims to take this idea a step further by creating a fully decentralised government system, where all government services, including voting and decision-making, are conducted on a blockchain-based platform. This would ensure that all government activities are transparent and secure, while also making it easier for citizens to participate in the democratic process.
By incorporating elements of all three models, the People's Assembly proposes to create a new country that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. This new country would be based on principles of direct democracy, social equality, and technological innovation, creating a society that is both just and sustainable.
Of course, creating a new country is no small feat, and the People's Assembly is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. However, with a strong vision and a commitment to collaboration and innovation, it is possible to create a new type of governance structure that truly empowers citizens and creates a more equitable society.
In conclusion, the People's Assembly's proposed governance structure is an ambitious and innovative idea that aims to create a new country that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. By incorporating elements of the Swiss, Norwegian, and Estonian models, the People's Assembly proposes to create a system that is both democratic and efficient, providing a strong safety net for all citizens while also utilising technology to create a more secure and transparent government.
While there are undoubtedly challenges ahead, the People's Assembly is committed to working together with citizens, experts, and other stakeholders to make this vision a reality.
The People's Assembly: A Proposal for a New Scotland
Scotland has a rich history of political movements and a deep sense of civic engagement. From the struggles of the Scottish people for self-determination, to the recent surge of progressive movements and grassroots organising, the country has shown that it has the potential to be a global leader in democratic innovation.
The People's Assembly is a proposal for a new Scotland, one that is based on the principles of direct democracy, open government, and citizen empowerment. It is a vision for a Scotland where every citizen has a voice and a vote in the decisions that affect their lives, and where the government is truly accountable to the people.
At its core, the People's Assembly is a platform for direct democracy, enabled by distributed ledger technology (DLT) such as blockchain. The platform allows citizens to propose new laws, initiate constitutional amendments, and vote on important issues in a secure and transparent manner. It is a system that is designed to give power back to the people and enable them to participate in the decision-making process in a meaningful way.
But the People's Assembly is more than just a platform. It is a movement for change, one that seeks to challenge the status quo and create a new Scotland that is based on the principles of fairness, equality, and justice. It is a movement that believes that the people of Scotland should be in control of their own destiny, and that the government should be accountable to the people, not to corporate interests or political elites.
To achieve this vision, the People's Assembly proposes a three-step process:
Step 1: Building the Platform
The first step is to build the platform itself. This will involve creating a secure, user-friendly, and accessible platform that allows citizens to propose new laws, initiate constitutional amendments, and vote on important issues. The platform will be built using distributed ledger technology (DLT), such as blockchain, which provides a high level of security, transparency, and accountability.
To build the platform, the People's Assembly will need to work with experts in blockchain technology, software development, and user experience design. It will also need to engage with the wider community to ensure that the platform is accessible and easy to use for all citizens, regardless of their technical expertise.
Step 2: Gathering Support
The second step is to gather support for the People's Assembly. This will involve reaching out to communities across Scotland, building alliances with other progressive movements, and engaging with politicians and policymakers at all levels of government.
The People's Assembly will need to demonstrate that it has the support of the Scottish people and that it represents a viable alternative to the current political system. It will need to engage in outreach and education campaigns, holding events, workshops, and town hall meetings to raise awareness about its vision and the benefits of direct democracy.
Step 3: Implementation
The final step is to implement the People's Assembly. This will involve working with politicians and policymakers at all levels of government to integrate the platform into the legislative process. It will require the support of elected officials who are willing to embrace direct democracy and work with the People's Assembly to create a new Scotland that is based on the principles of fairness, equality, and justice.
The People's Assembly is a bold and ambitious proposal for a new Scotland, one that is based on the principles of direct democracy, open government, and citizen empowerment. It is a vision for a Scotland where every citizen has a voice and a vote in the decisions that affect their lives, and where the government is truly accountable to the people.
While the road ahead may be long and challenging, the People's Assembly represents an opportunity for the people of Scotland to come together and create a new political system that truly represents their interests.