"Stop playing party politics with human rights" - Commission warns on threats to European Convention on Human Rights


“Stop playing party politics with human rights”- Scottish Human Rights Commission warns that threats to the European Convention on Human Rights undermine rights everywhere 

Responding to reports that a future Conservative government would repeal the Human Rights Act and risk expulsion or withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, Scotland’s national human rights institution has warned that such a move would jeopardise the rights of people in Scotland, the rest of the UK and across Europe.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said:

“Limiting accountability for the exercise of power, as these proposals would clearly do, not only goes against the grain of human rights history, it is in stark contrast to the spirit of democratic renewal that has come to life in Scotland in recent times. Playing party politics with human rights is irresponsible, undermines the rule of law, sets a dangerous precedent to other states and risks taking us backwards when it comes to protecting people’s rights in everyday life.

“Human rights laws often benefit us in ways we do not always realise. Here in the UK, they have been used to expose fatal failures in hospitals and care homes and to challenge the unfair impact of the bedroom tax. From protecting soldiers serving in battle to challenging prison conditions that have no place in a decent society, the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights provide a safety net for everyone.” 

The Scottish Human Rights Commission chairs the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions. Commenting on the international implications of the proposals, Professor Miller said:

“The European Convention provides protection to hundreds of millions of people in 47 countries across Europe. Its achievements include challenging abuses of rights and raising the bar in countries like Russia and Turkey with poor human rights records. This is something to be proud of.

“The laws that protect our human rights protect all of us, whoever we are. They enshrine internationally agreed standards that all governments should respect. These proposals would block access to protection for people’s rights in hospitals, in care homes, at work and in a whole host of other everyday settings. This is a pick-and-mix approach to human rights that is firmly on the wrong side of history.” 

The Commission also warned that the impact of the proposed changes would be felt directly by people in Scotland.  

“These plans would have an adverse effect on people in Scotland because they would affect human rights in areas of policy reserved to Westminster. That could include people’s rights at work, the rights of Scottish soldiers to be adequately protected when serving overseas and the rights of people seeking refuge and asylum to be treated humanely.

“The Commission expects the Scottish Government and Parliament to show leadership on these issues, doing all they can to assert and protect Scotland’s commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law. This will be particularly important as we enter a period of negotiation over further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.”


Notes to Editors

  1. The Scottish Human Rights Commission is an independent public body with a remit to promote and protect human rights for everyone in Scotland. It is accredited within the UN as an A-status national human rights institution.
  2. The Commission chairs the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, which is made up of 40 human rights bodies from across Europe. The Commission is also vice chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.
  3. The Commission represented Scotland on the Advisory Panel to the UK Government’s Commission on a British Bill of Rights. In its evidence, the Commission emphatically rejected the need for a British or UK Bill of Rights.
  4. To arrange an interview with Professor Alan Miller or for other media enquiries, please contact Emma Hutton (emma.hutton@scottishhumanrights.com or 07833 402289).