Scottish independence: SNP vow on human rights

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: TSPL
First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: TSPL
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Scotland would enshrine the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in its constitution if the country votes for independence, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Ministers also want an independent Scotland to keep the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as final arbiter in human rights disputes.

The UK government has considered amending the Human Rights Act, and Home Secretary Theresa May raised the possibility of leaving the convention.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The constitutional platform coming into place on independence day will consolidate the protection of human rights in Scotland so that all ECHR rights are protected on a similar basis to arrangements in other national constitutions, bringing Scotland fully into the European mainstream of human rights protection.”

Human rights groups say the move would lead to Scots living in a fairer country that protects the rights of minorities and the persecuted.

However, critics fear that an independent Scotland would become a bolthole for foreign criminals using ECHR rights to avoid deportation.

John Scott QC, a human rights lawyer, welcomed the move.

He said: “It suggests this government, which has not always got on terribly well with ECHR, is fully committed to its principles, which is very encouraging.

“The European court is a very good way of holding countries to account.”

However, Niall McCluskey QC warned there could be dangers if an independent Scotland and the UK diverge on human rights.

He said people who rely on Strasbourg and human rights laws to remain in the UK may be tempted to move to Scotland.

“You may find that people want to base themselves in Scotland, as opposed to England, if human rights laws are not available there,” he said.

Article eight of the ECHR, right to a family life, has been invoked by 450 foreign criminals as a defence against deportation.

The Scottish Conservatives believe border controls would be needed to prevent people entering Scotland illegally.

The party’s chief whip, John Lamont, said: “It is possible Scotland would have a different human rights regime to the rest of the UK. If that was the case, border patrols would need to be beefed up to prevent those who are unwelcome elsewhere gaining access from their new home in an independent Scotland.”

Both the Scottish and UK governments have criticised human rights rulings in Strasbourg and the Supreme Court in London.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he was “fed up” with the government’s inability to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan, while both governments have refused to give prisoners the vote.