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Sturgeon in Human Rights Act call

Published 12/05/2015

Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Conservatives' plan to replace the Human Rights Act
Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Conservatives' plan to replace the Human Rights Act

The Scottish Government will oppose any attempt by the UK Government to scrap the Human Rights Act north of the border, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister criticised the Conservatives' plan to replace the legislation with a British Bill of Rights after new Scottish Secretary David Mundell insisted the move would apply to Scotland.

Speaking on a visit to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Ms Sturgeon said: "I oppose the repeal of the Human Rights Act, I think it's an appalling thing to be doing.

"Human rights are there to protect all of us, for example it was the Human Rights Act that enabled people to go to court to object against the bedroom tax.

"The idea that we take away human rights, I think, is just an awful suggestion, so the Scottish Government will oppose that and work hard to make sure that in Scotland people still get vital human-rights protection."

Earlier, Mr Mundell, Scotland's only Conservative MP, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: " New legislation replaces existing legislation and therefore the new act will apply in Scotland.

"I think people in Scotland share the concerns that have been voiced across the United Kingdom - that we've got the balance wrong between rights and responsibilities.

"So, what the purpose of the act that we'll be bringing forward is, is to not only enshrine rights but also enshrine responsibilities."

The First Minister also dismissed Mr Mundell's assertion that the Smith Commission proposals for more powers for the Scottish P arliament were the "right package", describing them instead as merely a "starting point".

Mr Mundell told the programme: "The Government believes that the Smith Commission package is the right package for Scotland, the right package to give the Scottish Parliament the powers that it needs to be an effective and powerful devolved parliament within the context of a United Kingdom."

He said he expected "vigorous and robust" debate on the proposals when they come before Parliament and any amendments are put forward.

"When you put down amendments in Parliament you don't always get those amendments passed, but what you do get is you get listened to for the points and issues that you raise," he said.

Ms Sturgeon responded: " I look forward to meeting, hopefully very soon, with the Prime Minister to discuss how we build upon the Smith Commission proposals.

"There's now a growing acceptance that these proposals, while a good starting point, don't go far enough and we now need to look at how we build on them so the Scottish P arliament is empowered with control over employment law, business taxes, welfare - the powers we need to grow our economy, create jobs and lift people out of poverty."

The proposal drew criticism when it was raised at the Scottish Parliament by SNP MSP Mark McDonald, who accused the Tories of "dangerous posturing".

MSPs passed a motion in support of the Human Rights Act by a majority of 100 to 10 in November last year.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "The implementation of the Conservative Government's proposals would require legislative consent and that this Parliament should make clear that such consent will not be given.

"I think it's incumbent on this Parliament to send a clear message that these proposals are unacceptable and will not receive our support.

"The ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) has played a vital role in upholding the rights of individuals and organisations and I think it would be a sad day if we were to tear up our membership of the ECHR or in any way try to dilute the legislation."

Labour MSP Claire Baker said: "There is not a case for abolition and I firmly believe the Human Right Act should stay.

"It is appalling that one of the first acts of this Conservative Government is to abolish the Human Rights Act and to attempt to leave the ECHR but like many of their policies this is ideology and rhetoric being put above the actual practicalities and impact of delivering a policy."

Her party colleague Neil Findlay MSP described the policy as "the first grenade" in a "very bloody assault" on the rights of working people.

But Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said the proposal was an opportunity to sort out some of the "not inconsiderable" problems that have arisen from the incorporation of ECHR into Scots law.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The new Tory Government wants to put us in the same category as Kazakhstan in terms of how we view human rights.

"Liberal Democrats stopped the Tories scrapping the Human Rights Act and we are determined to keep fighting these plans.

"Parties need to work together across the UK to stop the Conservatives from taking away our hard-won human rights.

"The Conservative plans could have a far-reaching impact on every cog and wheel of society. We need to know exactly what that impact could be.

"The Scottish Secretary's comments today indicate that his government haven't even given the implications a second thought."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "Scrapping the Human Rights Act and abandoning the European Convention would be unjust and lead to fragmentation of rights here in Scotland, given the differing approaches of the UK and Scottish Governments and the mixture of devolved and reserved responsibilities.

"It would make it much harder to take cases to court, and it would strip our own citizens of basic rights, but also send a terrible message to the world that the UK is willing to disregard international human rights standards, undermining our ability to challenge overseas oppression."

"It's alarming to think that the UK Government's effort will be led by Michael Gove, who once called for the return of hanging.

"This ideological assault must be opposed, and we must be prepared in this new political landscape to argue for devolution of responsibility for human rights so we can protect them."

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