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The Human Rights Act and the British Bill of Rights

The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) came into force in the UK in October 2000.

This means that certain core protections given by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are part of UK law. So:

  • all public organisations, such as hospitals, councils, courts and the police, and other bodies that carry out public functions, must observe the convention rights
  • individuals can take human rights cases to UK courts (they no longer have to take them to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg)

Scotland's position on a British Bill of Rights

The UK Government has proposed replacing the HRA with a British Bill of Rights.

We strongly oppose the British Bill of Rights because:

  • the HRA already brings the ECHR into UK law
  • it is not clear what the benefits of a UK Bill of Rights would be
  • the proposed changes have the potential to damage the UK's reputation abroad

We would invite the Scottish Parliament to refuse legislative consent to any attempt to reduce the human rights safeguards in the HRA.

These are protections that have directly benefitted some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Our position is detailed in the speeches and responses below:

Scottish Parliament support for the HRA

The Scottish Parliament passed a motion in support of the Human Rights Act in November 2014, by 100 votes to 10.

In January 2017 the Scottish Parliament passed a motion calling on the UK Government to avoid actions that weaken international human rights. The motion, which passed by 93 votes to 30, specifically called upon the UK Government to:

"give an undertaking not to take, or propose, any action that weakens or undermines participation in... international human rights mechanisms, including in particular the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights, and records [the] opposition [of the Scottish Parliament] to any loss in Scotland of the human rights, equality, social protection and other safeguards and standards enshrined in EU law and set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights."

The European Convention on Human Rights remains embedded within the Scotland Act 1998.

We expect this to continue to be the case under current constitutional arrangements.