Where we went wrong on human rights laws

POLITICIANS are saying that there's no chance of the Scottish Parliament elections being postponed after this week's decision by Scottish judges that to meet the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Scotland cannot continue with a blanket ban that prevents prisoners from taking part in democratic elections. There's a lot of tripe being boiled up about this so let me pour some cold milk over it all.

Firstly, the Scottish judges are blameless. They have merely done what is required of them - interpret the law that all of our political parties but the Tories said we had to sign up to.

Pity the advocates of this policy never bothered to work out what its consequences would really mean. Such as starting a gravy train for no-win no-fee lawyers chasing compensation claims for retrospective decisions nobody thought crazy at the time. The idea probably sounded good around some high-falutin dinner tables but it meant some violent criminals could be allowed out early.

Secondly, we can now see this convention for what it really is, a charter for cheats and chancers. It is a complete masquerade and is not a precondition to provide human rights in our land - the country that gave human rights to so many.

Back in the 80s it was the ECHR, which at that stage was only a treaty we had signed up to, that ensured the belt was banned from our schools. I don't care what the do-gooders say, removing corporal punishment and replacing it with nothing was the beginning of violence against teachers in schools.

After 1999 we incorporated it into our laws and the fun really began. It doesn't so much protect minorities as protect drug dealers, thugs and murderers - and remove the hard-fought rights of some groups (minority religious faiths) in preference to the rights of others (minority sexual orientations).

The answer to this human rights conundrum is that a democratic parliament should have the final say in laying down laws - but the problem is that in signing up to the ECHR we signed away our right to determine our own rights, obligations and liberties and settled for some rules designed for another country. Because we can no longer change our human rights, in truth, we have none! I thought Jack McConnell would take it in the neck from Annabel Goldie at First Minister's Questions. There he was saying he was against prisoners having a vote - wee Nicola Sturgeon agreed with him - and yet both had voted for the ECHR that made it a certainty. All Annabel had to do was say that the Tories had been right and we should now pull out and define our own human rights. It was an open goal, but, like Diana Ross, she ballooned the ba' wide.

The election will most likely go ahead, but it may mean paying out 1000 in compensation to every jailbird locked up on May 3 - at the cost of 7 million. That it's a scandal is beyond doubt. That we can't overturn it is the message we must recognise, so that the brave decision to come out of the ECHR can then be taken. David Cameron suggested as much a few months back. It seems he's got that issue right at least.

Star performers put healthy eating on menu

WHAT glorious news to waken up to over my kippers this week when I read that Tom Kitchin, his wife Michaela and cheery team have won a coveted Michelin star for new Leith restaurant The Kitchin.

What a whirlwind year it must have been for him, opening only last June and achieving by November a high enough standard so quickly as to be judged worthy of inclusion in the trencherman's bible.

And how welcome that from along the road Martin Wishart, whose eponymous restaurant retained its star, should ring him up to congratulate him like a brother. Kitchin, Wishart and Geoff Bland, whose Number One at the Balmoral also has a Michelin star, all deserve our praise for making Edinburgh the Scottish city with the most to eat for food-lovers (no stars in Glasgow or any other city!). They point the direction Scottish food has to go.

We must drive up standards of cuisine so that Scottish tourism becomes a quality experience like Switzerland rather than a package bargain basement called the Costa del Cold. Promoting quality food will also ensure that people take greater care over meals in the home, cook more for themselves, use local produce and become healthier for all that.

In doing so we can teach our children to drink more responsibly by eating when they drink. That's how we really tackle obesity and binge drinking. We need to be encouraging more people into catering for the love of food not just as a career. Good food and drink should be central to our lives, given respect and savoured. Only then will we not abuse it.

It's thieving galore

AT first I thought the sight of hundreds of British people descending on Branscombe Beach was a bit of a larf! Good old Devon folk, smuggling and wrecking - it's in their genes and no-one was hurt. A little bit of Whisky Galore, but without the whisky (pity).

Then I started to read about the jemmies and crowbars and the looting gangs travelling for miles to get their hands on the swag.

This was no Whisky Galore romantic romp, nor was it beach-combing for the flotsam and jetsam of the seas. What was on display was not a victimless crime but the theft of real family heirlooms, paintings and furniture - owned by real people - not faceless corporations.

A couple back in Sweden were reportedly distraught with grief that the possessions of their late parents were being pillaged.

My opinion changed and my belief that "wreck" from a ship is fair game was exploded.

Can you imagine this happening if a freight train was derailed, or a removal lorry came off the M8 shedding its load? Would the authorities stand idly by, would we all shrug our shoulders and think it all right? Why stop there, why not raid road accidents?

A theft is a theft is a theft, and a shipwreck doesn't change that one iota.

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