Interview with Holyrood Magazine
By Alan Robertson, reprinted here with kind permission of Holyrood Magazine
It's evident that Professor Alan Miller, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), regards Westminster with disdain. Indeed, the word 'toxic' more frequently than not accompanies the very mention of the institution as he mulls over his six-year tenure, one that will come to an end in two weeks' time. "It is relatively isolated in Europe in its attitude towards human rights," he says.
Seven days earlier, the Prime Minister declared migrants who come to the UK on spousal visas could face deportation if they fail a mandatory English language test two-and-a-half years on from arrival. This, from a government that has vowed to scrap the Human Rights Act, merely exacerbates Miller's frustration. "It's an example of something that will not be done because to do it would be contrary to human rights obligations," he says.
"But it's part of creating this kind of culture and climate whereby, for short-term political interests, you say things that are very divisive and very wrong, both in facts and purpose. And it's very disappointing that a country like the UK, which in generations gone by has been a lot better than this, is reduced to these kind of statements which so discredits the country, the government and undermines people within the UK and beyond."
Scotland has "withstood extremely well the toxicity of the Westminster debate" and, in fact, is "going its own way", according to Miller. Indeed, he suggests that "counter-intuitively" the political class in Scotland has in many ways fed off the "regressive" approach taken south of the border in a bid to do something different.
The SHRC chair exudes a sense of pride over Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights - a UK first which outlines priorities for the Scottish Government, NHS and various other organisations to improve human rights protection – and the First Minister's recent commitment to anchor it within Scotland's National Performance Framework.