‘Secure protection for human rights – whatever powers are devolved’, SHRC tells Smith Commission

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has published its submission to the Smith Commission’s work on devolution of further powers to Scotland.

Calling for a series of measures to guarantee legal protection for human rights, whatever powers are devolved, the Commission has also stressed the importance of the right of the people of Scotland to participate in further constitutional reform.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said:

“Questions of democracy, participation, equality, social justice and fairness were at the heart of referendum debates about the kind of Scotland people wanted to see. Human rights provide a legal framework for realising these values and principles. As we enter a period of constitutional change, there must be no regression when it comes to guaranteeing legal protection for human rights. Our submission to the Smith Commission sets out specific measures to ensure this, including entrenching the human rights protections in the Scotland Act and giving statutory effect to the Sewell Convention to provide a democratic check on reforms to UK human rights laws.”

The Commission makes four recommendations to the Smith Commission:

  1. Any future constitutional reform process should ensure the full and effective participation of the people of Scotland.
  2. The human rights protections, powers and duties contained in the Scotland Act must be entrenched so that current levels of accountability for human rights are secured.
  3. The Sewell Convention should be given statutory effect, in order to provide a democratic check on reforms to UK human rights laws that would impact on Scotland.
  4. A mechanism should be established to ensure that the UK Government’s exercise of reserved powers is assessed for its impact on the human rights of people in Scotland.