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Embedding human rights

Published: 9 Dec 2015 13:30

Protections - ‘a floor rather than a ceiling’ - FM.

The protections offered by the Human Rights Act are central to any civilised country and should be a “floor rather than a ceiling” in protecting the most vulnerable in society, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today.

In a speech to an innovation forum hosted by the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Scottish Government, the First Minister said protecting human rights ensured people were free from fear and discrimination and allowed governments to tackle social and economic disadvantage.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would seek to embed human rights protections in policy decisions as she criticised moves by the UK Government to repeal the Human Rights Act, insisting that any such development would require a legislative consent motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking ahead of International Human Rights Day on 10 December, the First Minister also highlighted the progress made on Scotland’s National Action Plan for human rights, which she helped launch on 10 December 2013.

The First Minister said:

“We are meeting on the eve of International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the signing on 10 December 1948 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

"The Scottish government values the Human Rights Act. We see it as a proportionate, pragmatic and progressive way of ensuring that the protections of the European Convention of Human Rights can be taken into account by UK courts. We see those protections as being essential to any civilised society. And they are especially important to those with least power.

“So we will argue strongly against repeal at Westminster, and – since human rights is a devolved issue, and Convention rights are embedded into the devolution settlement - we will also argue strongly that repeal will require a legislative consent motion in the Scottish Parliament. I see no prospect whatsoever of such consent being granted.

“In other words, we will do absolutely everything we can to oppose the Act’s repeal – in Scotland and across the whole of the UK.

“But the Scottish Government wants to go beyond simply defending the Human Rights Act and the European Convention – hugely important though that is. In our view, the protections offered by the Act and the Convention should represent a floor rather than a ceiling. We should be looking to go further.

“In fact the key challenge for progressive governments is not finding ways to avoid human rights responsibilities - it is finding ways to embed those responsibilities across different areas of policy. That’s what Scotland’s National Action Plan does.”

The First Minister continued:

“The basic principle of ensuring true equality of opportunity – of enabling everyone to contribute fully to society – is an issue of human rights. It’s about ensuring people are free from discrimination and fear – and it’s also about tackling the social and economic disadvantage which harms people’s health and wellbeing and reduces access to educational opportunities. Human rights are therefore central to our concept of inclusive growth – the concept we have put at the heart of our strategy of building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

"And it demonstrates once again the stark contrast that exists between our approach and that of the UK Government. The UK is seriously considering how to repeal the Human Rights Act – the most important Act to incorporate our international obligations into domestic law at a time we should be doing the opposite – looking at how we incorporate some of the other treaties and rights into our domestic law."

Notes to editors

You can read the full text of the First Minister’s speech to the innovation forum here - https://news.gov.scot/speeches-and-briefings/snap-human-rights-innovation-forum

You can read more information on Scotland’s National Action Plan on human rights here - https://beta.gov.scot/policies/human-rights/action-plan/

Find out more about the office of the First Minister here – www.firstminister.gov.scot

Follow us on Twitter @ScotGovFM