Bill of Rights Commission Report

The Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has said that a move towards a UK Bill of Rights is “out of step with reality”.

Responding to the Report of the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights, Professor Alan Miller, Chair of SHRC, has commented on the potential impact of the recommendations. 

The Scottish Human Rights Commission was one of two Scottish members of the Advisory Panel to the Commission.

The SHRC is also the Chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, representing some 40 United Nations endorsed institutions with mandates to promote and protect human rights in countries across Europe.

Professor Miller said: “The Report, although predictably inconclusive, reveals the Commission as out of touch with the progressive direction of travel of human rights protection in Scotland and in Europe, and out of step with reality.

“The majority recommendations from the Report would in the current climate lead to the weakening of human rights protection for everyone in the UK, as illustrated by today’s comments from the UK Justice Secretary.

“Despite face to face meetings with representatives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the views of the majority of respondents to two consultations, the majority of the Commission has decided to recommend a Bill of Rights. The Commission lacks a credible evidence base for this assertion.

“Some of the views contained in the Report highlight that establishing a Bill of Rights would be a means of reducing UK accountability to the European Court of Human Rights, something actually beyond the terms of reference of the Commission.

"The comments today from the UK Justice Secretary, seeking a reduction in the UK’s accountability to the Court should the Conservatives be re-elected, reveal the way in which the Report will be used. Attempting to detach the UK from the European Court of Human Rights would be extremely damaging to the UK’s reputation and greatly reduce its ability to press other countries to make improvements to their human rights records. It would also set a precedent for the erosion of human rights protections in countries across Europe.

"Simply put, a UK Bill of Rights, although recommended in vague terms by the majority of the Commission, would weaken the protection of human rights within the UK, throughout Europe and potentially further afield.

“In line with international best practice, SHRC believes that Scotland can do better and should continue on its path to develop Scotland’s first National Action Plan for Human Rights, a practical means of agreeing a roadmap of progressively realising internationally recognised human rights for everyone, especially the most vulnerable, in Scotland.

"Rather than encouraging this Westminster-centric debate and division, SHRC believes that the UK Government should instead take steps to accept and not avoid its human rights responsibilities. Making human rights real, particularly in times of austerity, and not reducing them to rhetoric, is what matters to all of us.”

All previous statements on the Commission on a Bill of Rights are here, including both consultation responses.