Sunday 5 January 2014


Guest post by Braco:

As it's the new year and we now only have nine months left until the Referendum, I thought I would take this current (and I am sure very short) 'lull before the storm' as an opportunity to put forward a much more radical set of ideas on how I would like to see Scotland and her constitution develop after a YES vote, than I have come across up until now. Certainly more radical and controversial than we would (or even should) be arguing about during the prosaic reality of 'day to day' leafleting and the mundane trench warfare that is so shortly about to engulf us all, and that will be so essential to actually winning this thing!

So, while we still have time to ruminate on the more theoretical aspects of the revolutionary ideal we are actually fighting for, here are some ideas that I and a few other like minded 'Fathers of the Nation' came up with during discussions in Quarantine over on 'Wings Over Scotland' some months ago (they know who they are). I would really like to thank Tris and Munguin for the kind offer of this guest post (you may wish rather to blame them for it)!

I don’t think I can stress enough how important the education of the population in their civil rights and responsibilities, under their written Constitution, would be to the successful running of such a system of Government. The populace would have to instinctively understand their constitution and the different role that each chamber of Government performs. I think the flow chart shows how simple the overall system is to understand though, when thought of as a pathway along which policy/law changes can be influenced and enacted by the general population.

It would also self regulate simplicity of understanding into its law making, policy formation and Constitutional changes. All such changes being written for and being passed (in YES/NO votes) by Laypeople in the form of the Jury Chamber and Constitutional Referenda. This will again, through time, add to the easy understanding by the general population of the laws and policies of their land and so in turn, create a reinforcing positive cycle. Easy to understand Government run by and for a population that well understands its government and Laws.


This is a NON Political Party Chamber. It will be made up of elected members who are in Politics to change the world. Old fashioned campaigners or single issue people. Even some who are getting elected in order solely to modify the constitution. They will be elected on personal manifestos and will only be allowed to develop and pursue those policies that are within those written pre election personal manifestos.

Once they have worked up a solid proposal it will be put to the Jury Chamber for a YES/NO decision. As the Jury Chamber is made up of Lay people, this will encourage policy to be written and constructed in an easy to comprehend manner. Something that this system will encourage from the start of policy initiation right through to the enactment of the new law. All Law and Policy should be easily understood by the electorate and general population without the need to first consult a Lawyer/accountant/specialist of some sort.


This is to give access to policy initiation for those that would or could not stand for election to the Policy Formation Chamber, but none the less have very good ideas for local governance that could advance Scottish society if given the chance to be implemented by each local community council. This will be linked to and result from the new direct democracy form of local Government. The decision making locally by micro referendums modelled on the Swiss Canton system, but with powers devolved down to 'minimum scale' community council areas. This way local communities and individuals can control and change their environment freely within the limitations of defined powers.

The secure electronic internet system of local referendum voting will be part of the same secure system for National voting and Governmental access to all citizens. Should a policy be initiated at local level, win the necessary referendum to be enacted, be put successfully into practice by the community over a designated period of say 4 years, then the policy will automatically be moved to the Juror Chamber for a YES/NO decision on whether the Policy should be worked up as best practice and put to each Scottish local community for consideration by referendum. This way radical ideas for running local communities will be encouraged, constantly assessed on a National level and given the chance at widespread adoption at community level if agreed to at that very local level.


This will be a virtual chamber of 1000 jurors per generation. They will serve for a period of 4 years in total. They will be selected by lot and will be statistically representative of the social make up of Scotland at the time each generational lot is drawn. If Scotland is 52% female, the Jury Chamber will be 52% female. If Scotland has 2% millionaires, the Jury Chamber will have 2% millionaires, etc. This must be guaranteed over the longer period via statistical randomisation.

Jurors will remain in their everyday environment, but connected to Government and given all the information to be decided upon, through secure electronic systems. This keeps the voice of the Jury Chamber authentic and representative of Scottish public perceptions.

The first and last year of their decision making service will be used as statistical back up only, to the previous and future Generations two year period of actual ‘Hot Seat’ decision making. This will allow time for each new Juror to bed themselves into understanding the expected work load and develop a practical work/lifestyle balance. An adjustment necessary for optimum decision making during their own two year ‘Hot Seat’ period. During this 'adjustment period', New jurors will be paired with experienced 'outgoing' Jurors for advice and training.

Only during YES/NO questions concerning Constitutional Change will all Generations of The Jury Chamber be asked to decide.
The purpose of the Jury Chamber is to make YES/NO general evaluation decisions at critical moments in the passage of legislation from the various Chambers of Parliament. ‘Hot Seaters’ will carry the decision. They will approve or reject proposals from the Policy Formation Chamber. If YES policy moves on to the…..


This Chamber will be Non Party Political. This is a Chamber of 8 yearly elected political Bureaucrats and permanent civil servants who will form the Government. They will run the Country on a day to day basis but will have NO Policy initiation powers. They will be elected as individuals and will select the 'First Minister' among themselves.

This Chamber is also responsible for developing the Policies approved by the Jury Chamber from the Policy Formation Chamber into concrete and practical proposals for new policy or laws, which will then once again be put to the Jury Chamber for a YES/NO decision. If NO then the proposal returns to the Secretariat for more work. If Yes, then it moves on to…


This is a Constitutional court that will be responsible to define the Legality, under the current written constitution, of the proposals for new policy or Law. They are headed by the Elected Head of State, whose role is to give Democratic oversight of the Guardians. They will be elected over a 10 year cycle but with strict recall rules should they prove incompetent or corrupt.

Should a policy or Law be deemed in conflict with the constitution then it will be returned to the Jury Chamber with the accompanying analysis. The whole Generational Chamber will then decide YES/NO on the worth of the policy against the change in the Constitution. If No, it returns to the civil service for possible tweaking. If YES then the decision goes to the country through a national


The entire country decides the merits of Constitutional Change. This will be done through a secure electronic system, shared by all levels of national and local government which will mean each citizen fully understands and has easy access to our democratic infrastructure. It will also keep costs down and encourage the liberal use of referenda as final arbiter at all levels of governmental decision making.

If YES, Constitution is changed and new law or policy is enacted.

This system also has the advantage that the Constitution can stay fluid, with some campaigners quite possibly, only being elected to the Policy Formation Chamber in order to change or adapt the Constitution. This will also mitigate against the worship and deification of a historic constitutional document that (through unwillingness to change) slowly becomes distant and irrelevant to the populace and their principles. Eventually ruling over the populace rather than protecting them by adapting the principle slowly to each new and modern context. America?


The need for such legislation can be demanded by the Governmental Secretariat (along with a briefing on the ‘problem’ needing solved) and then delivered to the Policy Formation Chamber for emergency proposals. This then can follow the usual, but fast tracked, route through to enactment. Each emergency act would have a very short 'sunset clause' to give the Guardians enough time to retrospectively assess its compatibility with the current Constitution. The Act can then be assessed and as to whether it continues to be required, in which case its renewal can follow the standard route to law or it can simply be left to become null and void via its sunset clause.


These must be put to the full generational Jury Chamber for an initial YES/NO decision. If YES, then the country decides by referendum at the nearest opportunity. Referenda are electronic and can therefore be called very quickly if required. The people must decide.

Links of interest:

(I'd be interested to hear your thoughts ...Tris)


  1. It's great to see that people are thinking and writing down their thoughts in how Scotland can get a workable form of governance above the tribal undemocratic party policy system which favours corporations over the mainstream populace which we are stuck in at the moment.

    I think certain basic citizen rights need to be enshrined in constitutional law and others fluid depending on natural evolutionary circumstances.

    I don’t think I can stress enough how important the education of the population in their civil rights and responsibilities, under their written Constitution, would be to the successful running of such a system of Government.

    I find this one of the multitude of problems we have at present that the public are completely unaware of where actual power lies and education is the key.

    Wars exists to plunder other countries resources for personal or survival gain and shows poor governance at the outset especially in an island nation.

  2. CynicalHighlander,
    A comment! Thanks

    Yes, I think our real problem is somehow creating a desire and expectation within the population, to participate in our own governance as a natural day to day matter of fact.

    We have spent so long being conditioned into meekly handing over our hard won democratic rights once every five years and simply accepting whatever decisions are made on our behalf, no matter who's advantage those decisions are designed to benefit.

    My view is, first step : break the party political system. This is at the root of my scheming. Lottery removes the need for organised, financially obligated party political electoral machines.

  3. I'm attracted by this, but need to give it more thought. Idon't like the name Guardians. It carries connotations of control.

    1. Anon,
      sorry, not my intention. It was a nod to our ancient constitutional historic convention when, without a feasible sovereign (or any sovereign) available, we as a society appointed a group of trusted individuals to hold (as a group) our powers in trust. Our first tentative moves away from monarchy/dictatorship?

      Romantic I know, but these stories we tell ourselves are important, even just as reminders. Our first 'National' stab at 'tribal elders' perhaps. I always liked that, but it's certainly not a deal breaker (wink)!


  4. The system may sound complicated, but is it, I wonder any more complicated than what we have at present, with committees, the Privy Council, lords, Monarch, ministers, and even the courts being involved in legislation?

    Names are always going to be difficult, I think. If you retain the equivalent names, confusion is caused.

    If you chose new names, there is always danger of sounding 1984ish.

  5. Yes Tris,
    when you start looking into the ad hoc system of power and patronage that has slowly built up over centuries in Britain and is masquerading as open democracy then my proposal appears simplicity itself to understand.

    I mean, how many folk actually understand that the Prime Minister still wields the power of the Sovereign through the Royal Prerogative. That's almost the same absolute power that was wrested from the monarch after the Civil war in 1651! Hence his right to declare war and god knows what else.

    And that's the real issue for me, we the citizens don't actually know where or how our Power is held and used. Tell folk we live in a partial Theocracy (The UK not Iran) and they usually just give you a blank look.

    This is the real scandal, and this is why I took the time to try and come up with a 'clean sheet', modern and rational concept for a practical democratic system.

    At this point (to me) the names really don't matter.


    1. True... and much of it is deliberately kept from us.

      We didn't know until recently how much power bothe the queen and her son have...and use.

      Who is the Remembrancer?

      What is his place in parliament?

      And why did a letter from Buckingham palace change the view of the Tories to having Cameron as a prospective parliamentary candidate...?

    2. It really sounds like the plot of a bad conspiracy theory novel, doesn't it? The saddest part of it all is that it's true, and no one seems to give a sh....!

      It's in the built in, purposely engineered, historic ambiguities, absurd etiquettes and use of malleable legal precedent, which passes for UK governance, that our ability to influence and hold the powerful to account just seeps away.

      My attempt here, was to try and get folk to consider government more like a clearly set out and mapped road network. Where any citizen could realistically sit down and plan their journey, should they ever feel the need to set about changing their environment, society or even previously off limit 'constitutional' touch stones.

      Now that would be radical!


  6. Excellent stuff, as a rabid sci-fi fan I've been exposed to lots of unconventional thinking on this subject, and your model is actually quite close to both my own ideal, and some of the stuff I've read(I tend to rave on about it a wee bit, but if you've not already, the Mars Trilogy by K.S. Robinson is well worth a read).

    What would you think of the Secretariat/Civil Service chamber being, to a degree, Technocratic? Since its role appears to be primarily managerial with some elements of policy refinement, and it is fairly well surrounded by democracy both in terms of what they're allowed to consider in the first place and the further three stages of ratification of anything they output, I think there's a case to be made for limiting the membership in some way so that it is composed of experts both professional and academic, rather than just an extra layer of elected politicians. Perhaps it could be set up such that the Secretariat primarily concerns itself with composing and overseeing quasi-independent working groups along the lines of the current SG's Fiscal Commission, each set up either as dedicated to a particular field of expertise and then have proposed legislation passed between any Commissions with relevance, or as smaller and more specific multidisciplinary units specifically composed to deal with one proposal.

    I love the local government interface concept, particularly the evidence-based "viral policy-making" that allows good ideas to spread rapidly once they're proven effective. I'd go a bit further and suggest that a kind of mirror universe version of that system needs to be in place for legislation enacted through the national government; I'd like to see a mechanism by which policies are reviewed after some set period of time to determine their real-world efficacy, the results of which would be made available to the public so as to ensure they have recourse to push for repeal of legislation that is dysfunctional or substantially less effective than was claimed when it was first ratified by referendum.

    Brilliant post chief, we need more stuff like this that really pushes the boundaries in a considered, rational way; if we get the Yes, we shouldn't just be settling for a slight twist on the same-old same-old, and we need new ideas not just the usual "small state vs collective bargaining" Punch&Judy stuff that passes for radical thinking these days.

    1. Hi yodhrinsforge,
      thank you so much for your contribution. When I finally got round to putting this post together after, Tris's kind offer of a guest post, I was really hoping that folk would tear into it and have ideas of modification and development, or maybe simply an outright rejection but with a philosophical critique to creatively tussle over.

      Your idea of an equal and opposite 'mirror universe' system of testing and review for newly passed National Law and Policy, with an official body tasked to deliver factual, evidence based information on each issue for public access and future assessment or repeal is brilliant. This must definitely be incorporated!

      Where would you see this body naturally resting? If it was part of the Guardian's Chamber, they would be around at the very outset of Law and Policy ratification and so privy to the very earliest considerations each law may have had, in constitutional terms.

      It would also mean that 'The Guardians' role as a primarily citizen facing institution would be enhanced and reinforced, as they would now also be held responsible for the continual oversight and public reporting on the effectiveness of recently passed policy and law. Certainly expands their reach from simple constitutional doormen.

      I see where you are coming from, turning the Secretariat and civil service Chamber into a purely technocratic one. In many ways that's how I envisaged it working in practice, but I would fear allowing 'specialists' such a powerful officially sanctioned position within Government.

      My real focus has been to try and ensure the 'generalist' non specialised public understanding of problems and their solutions within government, holds complete sway.

      Yes specialists are essential as advisors, but the final decision must always be made by a well informed representative of the public, or better still the actual well informed public themselves.

      This is why the Jury Chamber is absolutely pivotal to the system. In order to ensure focus on this pivotal role, it's essential that the information and policy/law formation process (as an absolute day to day level) keeps their language and format very easy to understand, and designed for the informed lay person.

      I therefor see all the Chambers that feed the Jury Chamber as the first line of defense between the general public and specialist advisors and their predilection to professional jargon and legalise.

      All Specialist advisors must first report and be understandable to the Elected members of the feeder Chambers, who then ensure the material is presented in a clear and understandable way for decision making by the Jurors (who are, after all, a member of the public).

      So that's the thinking and my main reason behind keeping the technocrats well away from running an official Chamber of Government.

      I look around now and can only seem to see politicians as technocrats anyway. I felt that the Secretariat and civil service Chamber would at least be an up front place, where those inevitable 'professional' politicians who quite frankly would enact any parties policy if they felt it would keep them in power, could aspire too. At least that way they would not have any say in policy, but instead could use their obvious personal ambition and interest in bureaucratic channeling of power for the public good (at least)!

      Sorry I appear to have written another article just for you (wink). Top ideas!


  7. Hey don't apologise even in jest, I am routinely berated on forums and twitter alike over my predilection for long, involved discussions full of fun wee tangents, you're much more likely to get a handle on other people's positions that way. -Hah, and as I try to submit this, even the blogspot software has joined in to tell me I'm too long-winded, I'll have to split the post-

    On which note, I do get where you're coming from on the Secretariat a bit more now, and I agree that the last thing we would want is a system that encourages the kind of engrained partisanship and careerist troughery so prevalent in modern politics. I think we might be slightly at crossed wires on what we mean by "technocrat" though, I don't mean the term in the sense of an ingrained elite, but rather in the sense of a Technocratic system of governance, ie having decisions made and policies crafted by scientists, engineers, technical experts and so forth rather than professional politicos and lawyers. On it's own it is a fundamentally undemocratic concept, but I still think it has value if it can be successfully integrated into a more open system such as the one you propose. A good example is the situation with Prof. David Nutt a while back; here is a government advisor, unequivocally an expert in his field, who demonstrates(using, it must be said, the combined work of many other scientists and health professionals) both the efficacy of harm reduction and patient-driven rehabilitation over prohibition in regards to drugs, and also that our current system of drug classification and criminal sentencing makes no sense in the context of the actual and potential harm each substance can cause, and not only were his recommendations and advise ignored by a political class more concerned with how the electorate "feels" about an issue than the actual facts of that issue, but he was subsequently drummed out of his post for daring to share that experience with the public.

    1. Regardless of definitions though, what you said about the Guardian chamber and its potential to review policy for efficacy after the fact makes me think that might be a better place to attempt to integrate experts and evidence-based policy. Essentially, replace the idea of "government advisors" with "civic advisors", and have them direct their findings to the electorate itself so they can be better informed, rather than have them directly involved in making policy, or as it is today having their output being used selectively or even outright suppressed in service of partisan political agendas. It could even be made a constitutional imperative that such advice -cannot- be made secret(excepting in very narrowly defined and time-limited occasional circumstances where lives may be at stake).

      The Guardian chamber(I've figured out why that term sits oddly; I'm having horrible visions of Severin Carrell and Poly Toynbee in Barrister's Wigs handing down constitutional rulings, hah) being responsible for ongoing review as well as initial constitutional analysis might also help prevent it descending into the kind of bizarro-world situation they have with the Supreme Court in America that can lead to corporations being ruled to be "people" and spending money can be ruled as a form of free speech. Perhaps set it up so the Guardians themselves conduct the initial constitutional review, then also make them responsible for convening review panels of civic advisors after the defined period of time(4 years as with local policies, or do you think we should go a bit longer for potentially bigger and more comprehensive national policies, so as to allow more evidence to accumulate?). Their findings would be passed back to the Guardians, who would make a one-off judgement on whether to refer the legislation back to the Jury chamber immediately, but they would also be made freely available in an indexed and searchable online database to allow the press and the public the chance to review the basis for the Guardians' ruling. That way if people disagree with a decision not to refer a law back to the Jury, they have the necessary knowledge and evidence to challenge it democratically by standing for election to the Policy Formation chamber on a platform to review/repeal the legislation in question.

    2. Braco may take a little time to reply, yod, he is moving house and without internet connection!

      Thanks for continuing to comment. I'm sure he'll reply when he gets the chance.

  8. Hi again yodhrinsforge, sorry for the delay in answering, it was just as Tris explained (thanks Tris).

    On your point about 'technocrats', I think we essentially agree. It's just that I see their failure to properly influence government policy/laws (as in the case of Prof. Nutt that you site) being much more as a result of their evidence and expertise actually contradicting the direction that 'professional' politicians want to direct their policy and lawmaking. That is, in the direction of perceived public opinion, or more usually the direction of the views of public opinion formers. Such as the media, vested interest pressure organisations and business etc. This is to secure their first priority as professional politicians, getting themselves re elected!

    By removing completely (except in limited emergency legislation) policy direction or formation from their remit, they would then be free to frame and move those policy and law innitiatives (already given the nod by the Jury Chamber) forward using the best evidence based advice available.

    It will, after all, be the Jury Chamber (again) that decides on the societal acceptability of any policy initiative, not the Secretariat. The 'professional' politicians of the Secretariat cannot be blamed for policy formation or rejection and so will be judged, come election day, on very different criteria than our politicians are judged by today.

    I think in this way, the Secretariat and civil service Chamber will have to search out and get access to the most up to date theoretical and evidence based expertise, in order to fully develop (in a practical form) the policy initiatives being fomented by those elected to the Policy Formation Chamber (and given a YES by the Jury Chamber). That would be a very goal orientated kind of knowledge search.

    What I really like about your ideas for the Guardian Chamber, as assessors (over the medium term) of the results and efficacy of recently enacted policies and laws (and most importantly, publishing their research and assessments for the public access), is that it's a much more passive collection of information (as evidence) than the Secretariat would require.

  9. It would build up an incredibly powerful library, public record and evidence based analysis of the societal effects that every governmental intervention was having socially, financially, personally etc. The power of this archive would be first, in it's access as a tool by the public in order to help arguments for election to The Policy Formation Chamber. Secondly (but more importantly in my view) over time it will prove invaluable in helping us not continue to repeat mistakes, as each generation forgets the hard won lessons of the last. (Something I think you and I are living through at the moment, as the mistakes of the 80's are rained down on us all over again!)

    If we start to view the Guardians Chamber then as a kind of follow up assessor and archive publisher of all recent policy/law initiative's societal effects, as well as a simple Constitutional watchdog, then it starts to take the form of a some sort of one stop citizen's information/ governmental first contact bureau.

    If so, it might also be worth bringing in all the authority for institutional oversight and regulatory bodies too. I have been wondering how to regulate the press and media in such a system. Maybe each of the Guardians should head up the regulatory bodies, Media, Police, Transport, Industry etc instead of the mess of quangos that would inevitably be required otherwise. This way regulation (citizen's rights and protection) are embedded constitutionally within a Chamber of Government and democratically accountable?

    We must be careful not to over complicate the basic framework though.

    Thanks for all the ideas, it's amazing how this kind of thing can just grow and grow. Human society and governmental systems are just so complex and interconnected that this task is like City design. Better to create a strong, easy to understand framework, but loose enough to allow it to take it's own distinct form, through it's ingenious use by and development of it's citizens.