JUSTICE has urged MSPs to consider the implications of the Government’s proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 for the Scots legal system.
Responding to a call for evidence on the upcoming changes from the European and External Affairs Committee at Holyrood, JUSTICE raises concerns about the likelihood that the proposed reforms will reduce the standard of protection offered for individual rights across the UK.
JUSTICE is committed to ensuring that human rights are protected and respected by each of the institutions of Government in the UK; individuals have a right to an effective remedy in our domestic courts for violation of those rights; and, in practice, enjoy each of the crucial guarantees for human rights protection enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN human rights treaties to which the UK is a party.
In our view, the Human Rights Act 1998 currently performs the core functions of a bill of rights for the UK. We are not persuaded that there is any evidence-based argument for change to the substantive and procedural guarantees in the Act. While the Government remains committed to consult on a Bill of Rights for the UK, we have seen little detail about the substantive changes which are proposed.
The information that has been published, whether in pre-election material or through informal ‘leaks’ to the press has consistently suggested that any new Bill will limit the scope of rights to be protected and introduce new restrictions on how individuals might be able to enforce those rights in UK courts. The message from central Government has been generally that a Bill of Rights will mean ‘fewer rights for fewer people’. If this approach is reflected in the Government’s final proposals, it would undermine the systems for protection of individual rights at home and the ability of the UK to promote international legal standards on a global stage.
We particularly regret that the conversation thus far has been neglectful of the devolution settlement across the United Kingdom.
We appreciate this early opportunity to engage with the Scottish Parliament on this important constitutional question.
For more information on JUSTICE’s work on the Bill of Rights debate, see here.