Brexit: rights, risks and responsibilities. What’s at stake for human rights in Scotland?

On 22 February 2017 the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the Scottish Human Rights Commission held a joint event to explore what’s at stake for human rights in Scotland following the decision for Britain to leave the European Union.

Featuring nine guest speakers and two roundtable discussions, the event explored:

  • The threats to human rights and social protections as the UK takes steps to leave the EU;
  • The opportunities to strengthen the protection and implementation of rights in Scotland; and
  • How we can advance our human rights (economic, social, cultural, civil, political and environmental).

Speaking about the event Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commission said:

“Working in partnership with civil society and the Scottish Government to fully understand and assess the impacts of Brexit is fundamental to ensuring that the human rights of every person in Scotland are protected. It is vital that to work closely with organisations like The Jimmy Reid Foundation, and the experts speaking at tonight’s events to explore the issues that impact where it really matters – in the reality of people’s day to day lives.

“The UK leaving the EU will almost certainly mean that the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights will no longer directly apply to the UK or to Scotland. That means a reduction in ever evolving human rights protections and remedies in areas such as privacy, data protection and a fair hearing; and potentially social rights such as workers’ rights, access to social security and healthcare. Brexit also means the loss of a substantial backstop of protections provided for in EU law in areas such as anti-discrimination and environmental protections.

“Opportunities for progress however also exist in relation to specific Scottish policy areas. Social security, for example, is a human right protected by a solid body of international legal standards that Scotland is signed up to. The Commission believes the redesign of a social security system for Scotland is a perfect opportunity to implement this right in practice. Similarly, there is significant scope to look at how the Scottish Parliament’s new powers in relation to taxation can be used to better protect and realise human rights.

“The commitment to advancing, not weakening, human rights protections must be carried forward by both the UK and Scottish Governments in whatever changes are to follow.” 

Professor Gregor Gall, director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, added:

“The Jimmy Reid Foundation is delighted to be holding this joint event with the Scottish Human Rights Commission on such an important and pressing issue. Under a hard right Brexit, the potential for a significant diminution of human rights in Scotland is more than possible. We, like many others, want to see the extent of human rights increased. The event will provide a basis to explore the ways and means for resisting the retrenchment in human rights and what ways there are to extend them.”

Speakers at the event included:
Grahame Smith, STUC
Kavita Chetty, the Commission's head of Strategy and Legal
Carole Ewart, Jimmy Reid Foundation
Dr Tobias Lock, University of Edinburgh
Prof Nicole Busby, University of Strathclyde
Antonio Cardesa-Salzmann, University of Strathclyde
Peter Kelly, Poverty Alliance
Peter Hunter, UNISON
Bob Thomson, Jimmy Reid Foundation

Read the Jimmy Reid Foundation's write-up of the event - this includes links to presentations and papers from the speakers.