Sunday, 27 September 2015

Scotland ~ First Minister defends Human Rights

In a speech to the Pearce Institute in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party) spoke of the British government's plans to "scrap the Human Rights Act."  She said:

"When Lord Bingham spoke at Liberty’s 75th anniversary in 2009, he posed these questions: “Which of these rights would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary?”

Those questions have never been answered – certainly not by the UK Government. And of course, that’s because these rights matter to all of us. They should be founding principles of any civilised society.

Now, I should maybe add here, that applying human rights isn’t always easy and nor should it be because it should challenge governments. Some of you will remember shortly after the Scottish Parliament was established, when Scotland’s custom of appointing temporary sheriffs was ruled as being incompatible with the right to an independent and impartial tribunal.

At the time that caused uproar in Scotland. But if you look back on that now, nobody would defend the old system. It involved members of the judiciary having their tenure renewed every year by the head of the prosecution service. And so although that decision was deeply uncomfortable for the Government at the time, it was hugely beneficial in the long term. And it improved our system of justice.

And that’s as it should be. Human rights aren't always convenient for Governments – but they’re not meant to be. Their purpose is to protect the powerless, not to strengthen those in power."

Precisely!  As Sturgeon also said - " ... Nobody believes that the UK Government will take this opportunity to strengthen existing human rights protections ..."

Numerous examples can be given about how the Human Rights Act has benefited the individual citizen - Please explore the first class Rights Info website.

What of human rights within the UK but beyond Scotland?

Sturgeon said, "The Scottish Government will also oppose any weakening of human rights protections – not just in Scotland, but across the whole of the UK. It has been rumoured and I have no idea whether these rumours are true that the UK Government will somehow try to carve Scotland out of what they are trying to do with the HRA

Let me be clear about this, we would have no interest whatsoever in doing a deal at Westminster which leaves rights intact here in Scotland, but dilutes them in other parts of the country or, as is perhaps more likely, protects human rights on devolved issues but not on reserved issues.

Human rights are not English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish rights - they are universal rights.

We believe that this approach will benefit people in Scotland and across the UK. We also believe that it does stand a real chance of success. I believe that of those who want to see the Human Rights Act retained, we can ensure that it is retained."


Dominic Grieve QC - see Holyrood for discussion of his speech on human rights.  Mr Grieve's full lecture may be read at Faculty of Advocates.  He stated that the government- " .... will have to accept the overwhelming evidence that the Convention, when viewed in its totality, has been and remains today a success, arguably the single most important legal and political instrument for promotion of human rights on our planet."

Useful Links:

SPICe The Information Centre 25th September - The European Convention on Human Rights and the UK - Angus Evans and Iain McIver.

Scottish Human Rights Commission

1 comment:

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