Patrick Harvie: 2014 could be a chance to affirm human rights
FAR from being a threat to basic rights and 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. Despite a long tradition of fettering the rights of kings and governments, and asserting the rights of individuals, a suspicion has grown in recent years that the whole notion of rights is an import, and out of step with our own traditions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The modern expression of our rights, through documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its various covenants and protocols, 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. Some people argue that the UK has no constitution; in fact, it 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, we will need to find a new context in which to embed our rights, and the development and adoption of a written constitution could be a chance not only to achieve that, but to 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, or wars of aggression, we would not only be asserting the characteristics which we believe constitute our society, we would be adding to the global debate on the future development of the moral basis for modern societies.
• Patrick Harvie MSP is co-convener of the Scottish Green Party.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West