The SNP have warned Theresa May that pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights will trigger a “constitutional crisis” after the Prime Minister said she would make doing so a cornerstone of the Conservative manifesto for the 2020 election.
Mrs May’s announcement suggests a long-standing pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights will be put on hold while the government deals with Brexit.
As home secretary, the Prime Minister was a strong critic of the ECHR and had advocated withdrawal from the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.
However, launching her bid for the Conservative leadership last June, she acknowledged there was no parliamentary majority for the plan and said she would not pursue it as Prime Minister.
However, reports claim Mrs May now wants to go further, by giving the Supreme Court the final say over how human rights laws are applied in the UK.
The SNP’s justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry QC MP said: “Human rights are a devolved matter and any plans to take Scotland out of the ECHR would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
“Given the strong cross party support for the ECHR and the Human Rights Act in both the parliament and across Scottish civil society consent would not be forthcoming and thus any attempt to repeal existing rights would be likely to provoke a constitutional crisis.”
After proposals for a British Bill of Rights appeared in the last two Conservative manifestos, former Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to delay his plans for reform in the face of opposition from some Conservative MPs as well as the House of Lords where the Government has no overall majority.
The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior government source as saying: “We would have been looking at having a huge row with a Parliament to get through the Cameron plan and we might even have failed. A clean break is by far the best option and, if we put it in the manifesto, even those Tory MPs who are squeamish about the idea will have to get behind it.
“A manifesto pledge also means the Lords will have to let it through eventually. All the signs are that the Prime Minister is up for this.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will set out our proposals for a Bill of Rights in due course. We will consult fully on our proposals.”
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames said Mrs May’s plans would face “the most robust opposition” and should be dropped altogether.