Human Rights : Basic Freedoms for All

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” – Nelson Mandela, South African civil rights activist

Human rights organisations have called on the Scottish Government and public bodies to use their powers and fulfil their human rights obligations to mitigate rights violations in proposed UK Government legislation.

The calls come as the Scottish Government launches a consultation into its own proposed legislation ‘A Human Rights Bill for Scotland’.

The new Human Rights Bill proposed by the Scottish Government will incorporate international human rights standards already signed and ratified by the UK into domestic law in Scotland.

Meanwhile the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, currently making its way through the Westminster Parliament is ringing alarm bells within many of Scotland’s organisations and with individuals too.

Kay Springham KC assessed the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill on behalf of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, human rights organisation JustRight Scotland, and the Scottish Refugee Council. It is her Opinion that the Bill encroaches on devolved areas of law without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. It finds that there is a real prospect of legal challenge to aspects of the legislation because they may breach the human rights of trafficking victims and unaccompanied children and young people, many of whom need refugee protection.

Today, 22nd of June , a Scottish Government-led summit on the Illegal Migration Bill is being held. It is attended by bodies like Cosla, Police Scotland and the Crown Office as well representatives from the voluntary sector.

Commenting on the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill Nick Hobbs, Acting Children’s and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said:

“The Illegal Migration Bill summit is a chance for the Scottish Government to show real leadership and for Ministers and Scottish public bodies to make concrete commitments to mitigate the worst attacks on children’s rights that are in this Bill. The Legal Opinion sets out some areas in which that needs to happen urgently. There are others we will be raising on the day on issues such as age assessment.   We must not see the opportunity this Summit represents wasted. By the end of it, we need a clear plan of action.

“Human rights are universal – they apply to all without exception. Refugee and asylum-seeking children have the same human rights as all other children in Scotland. But the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill will create a two-tier approach which seeks to deny them access to protection and support under the Scottish trafficking, welfare and child protection systems. It must be resisted by the Scottish Government and public bodies to the fullest extent the law permits.”

 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, African-American civil rights activist

The Scottish Government’s Human Rights Bill would incorporate United Nations economic, social, and cultural rights and environmental standards, as well as rights relating to women, disabled people and people who experience racism into Scottish legislation. People would also be able to seek justice where their rights are not upheld.

Social Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

had and shoulders shot of Shirley Anne Somerville

“Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to everyone.

“Our ambitious proposals will protect and promote these rights in every aspect of life in Scotland – from government and parliament through to the everyday interactions people have with frontline services – and ensure they apply equally across society.

“Making these rights enforceable in Scots law, within the limits of devolution, is the right thing to do – particularly for a country striving to reduce inequality, increase opportunity and tackle poverty.

“I would encourage people to share their views on the detailed proposals through our consultation and help to make human rights real for everybody.”

front cover of the consulationa paper for the Human Rights Bill for Scotland showing a wide diversity of people

Click on this link to access the Scottish Government Consultation : A Human Rights Bill for Scotland: Consultation

It closes on the 5th of October 2023.

The legal Opinion on the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill can be downloaded here:

Jen Ang, Director of Development and Policy at JustRight Scotland, said:

“We have already heard about how the Illegal Migration Bill will make it impossible for people to seek safety in the UK and how it will cut off protections for vulnerable people, including victims of trafficking and children who have fled war and abuse, and are arriving in Scotland alone.

“This Legal Opinion confirms that the Bill does so by cutting across areas of law devolved to Scottish Ministers and Scottish public authorities – putting them at immediate risk of breaching international human rights law if they fail to act to stem the significant harms threatened by the Bill. We are urgently pressing for Scottish Ministers, public authorities and civil society to identify and commit to concrete actions to challenge and mitigate the most harmful impacts of the Bill.”

The UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill is currently in the House of Lords as it nears its final stages. (as we go to publication)

Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said:

“In Scotland we have an ethical duty to challenge and mitigate the Illegal Migration Bill. This legislation closes the door to safety that so desperately needed by people seeking asylum, irrespective of where they fled, be that Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan and other wars, oppressive regimes and human rights abuses.

“Expert opinion makes it clear that Scottish public authorities have a legal obligation under European human rights law to maintain trafficking survivor protection that the Bill otherwise strips away. We must also protect unaccompanied children.

 “We call on Scottish Ministers to lead by taking practical and swift action against this unworkable legislation. We must protect not penalise those who have come here seeking sanctuary or who are trapped in exploitation, and uphold our legal and moral obligations.”

“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.”  – Desmond Tutu, South African civil rights activist

St Magnus Cathedral lit up in December 2020 for Human Rights Day

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

Leave a Reply