SCOTLAND risks being “sidelined and marginalised” like Belarus under Conservative plans to repeal human rights legislation, it has been claimed.
Addressing the Law Society of Scotland’s annual conference in Edinburgh this morning, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said he was “deeply concerned” by Tory proposals which could see European judges stripped of their powers to enforce human rights in the UK.
Mr MacAskill’s comments echoed those of Dominic Grieve QC, the former attorney general, who said the proposals contained a series of factual “howlers” and were not properly thought through.
Asked what the implications would be for Scotland, where human rights legislation is incorporated into the Scotland Act, Mr MacAskill said: “Our position is that we are deeply concerned. I remember that we contributed as a government to previous investigations that were going on into a British bill of rights. We were quite clear that we didn’t support that direction, that Scotland is best served by being in ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights).
“When I first spoke to Chris Grayling when he became the minister for justice, I recall he said to me ‘We’re still in ECHR for the moment’. That is why the likes of Dominic Grieve and wiser counsel have been removed. Scotland has always taken its position quite clearly that we should not accept this as diktat forced upon us but something to which we have voluntary signed up to because its best practice and we wish to be up there with European democracies not marginalised and sidelined along with Belarus, as I think Dominic Grieve and others have referred to. This is not the trajectory that a European democracy should be proceeding in in 2014.”
Mr MacAskill also said removing from the EU altogether would be “retrograde and catastrophic”.
The Conservative party plans to scrap the Human Rights Act introduced by Labour in 1998 to enshrine the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law.
Instead there would be a Bill of Rights, which would include the principles from the convention - originally drawn up by British lawyers after the Second World War.
But it would also make clear that the Supreme Court UK judges were not obliged to take European Court of Human Rights’ rulings into account when coming to decisions.
Mr Grayling said if the ECHR and the Council of Europe refused to accept the new arrangements, Britain would simply leave the convention. It was no longer sustainable to write European judges a “legal blank cheque” in the wake of rulings such as that demanding prisoners be given the vote, he argued.