Blair's legacy demands we look again at human rights

THERE is an important principle which everyone has heard of and which operates pretty well in our courts on a daily basis. It is the presumption of innocence.

It is not a uniquely Scottish notion. Even English QCs like Anthony Blair should have heard of it. However, it appears from one of our Prime Minister's final attempts at a legacy that he would like to rewrite this centuries-old idea.

Perhaps we could even name the refinement after him.

Mr Blair and successive home secretaries have launched assaults on human rights, lawyers and judges. Their passion in attack is so much more convincing than the occasional defence of the Human Rights Act that it is difficult not to think of human rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights in particular, as an alibi for doing the right thing if it is unpopular with the tabloids.

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When Mr Blair goes and takes John Reid with him, there will be a definite legacy left behind (and we should not forget David Blunkett). As we pocket our ID cards and walk down streets with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world, ready to answer to any police officer without a reasonable suspicion, wary of making suspicious moves like picking up the Metro, we should remember to think of them gratefully for doing what terrorists could not have done alone.

Rights taken are rarely returned. That is why we may need to look again at the Scotland Act to allow Holyrood to legislate in these areas to allow Scotland to once again be a world leader in human rights.

John Scott is a solicitor-advocate who was chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Centre from about 1997 to 2005.