The UK Government should call a halt in its attempts to repeal the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Alex Neil has demanded.
Speaking at the Human Rights Consortium Scotland’s annual conference, the Cabinet Secretary Neil said the UK Government should abandon its ill-conceived threat to human rights and instead start taking urgent action to undo the terrible damage being done by austerity cuts.
Neil said: “It is time for the UK Government to admit that its regressive proposals to take away fundamental human rights protections are doomed to failure. People in Scotland want positive action which not only safeguards the rights they already have, but which does even more to deliver an inclusive and socially-just Scotland.
“The UK Government should now abandon its ill-conceived threat to human rights and instead start taking urgent action to undo the terrible damage being done by their Government’s austerity policies. This should be the real priority for the UK Government – ending austerity and building a fairer society. The Scottish Government will fight to keep the Human Rights Act throughout the UK so that the fairness, equality, dignity and rights that are our shared values can become the common expectation for us all, without distinction or discrimination.
“There is overwhelming opposition within Scotland and across the UK to plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and many prominent civil society voices, including those in the Human Rights Consortium, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Liberty that have joined the Scottish Government in its opposition to such plans.
“The reality is that attacks on the Human Rights Act don’t have support at Westminster and far less in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where we recognise these proposals could wreak havoc with devolution settlements. More importantly, any reduction in human rights safeguards will threaten fundamental freedoms to which everyone in a modern democratic society is entitled, and the most vulnerable members of society will be hardest hit.
“Last week, I launched Creating a Fairer Scotland – What Matters to You, a national discussion asking people how we can achieve a fairer and more equal Scotland. We are committed in the long term to a conversation with the people of Scotland, as a platform and stimulus for engagement and innovation so we can shape together the Scotland we wish to live in. In direct contrast, the UK Government have announced a further £12 billion in welfare cuts.
“The Scottish Government prides itself on standing for an equal, fair, socially just Scotland built on the foundation of inalienable human rights for every member of our society.
“We are committed to working with partners to implement Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP) and are progressively realising rights through our Programme for Government initiatives such as the Fair Work convention, gender equality, improved health and health and social care and the community empowerment agenda.
“Later this year, I will bring together stakeholders from across civil society to discuss the UK’s Government’s proposals. And in December, we will sponsor an event that looks not only at how we retain existing protections, but how Scotland be even more progressive as we seek to give effect to the full range of human rights standards, I will work tirelessly to ensure that we do not go backwards, and that we do more to create a Scotland where everyone lives with fundamental human dignity through the realisation of internationally recognised human rights standards.”