Proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 will pose problems for the UK’s constitutional settlement according to a legal expert.
Addressing the Law Society of Scotland’s annual conference in Edinburgh, Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC,director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, said: “This is the kind of issue that we really have to grapple with and decide is this a UK matter, do we really all subscribe to all of these things, or do we allow each nation to go its own way?
“And if we do, how do we do that if the UK withdraws from the convention?”
The QC said these questions “need to be grappled with in an important way and not just muddled along as usual until there’s an explosion at the end”.
Last week the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, warned that proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act risked undermining international obligations designed to protect people fleeing persecution. He described the proposed British bill of rights as a “dangerous and pernicious” development.
Sir Jeffrey also said Scotland is “particularly well placed” to give other nations advice on developing legal principles because of the nature of its system.
He said: “What I have found is that, although I do think UK-wide law and English and Welsh law is a useful model for a number of developing countries, the Scottish system is more of a mixed system in the same way that South African, Sri Lankan and Louisiana state law, for example, is.”
Sir Jeffrey claimed there is a need for Scottish expertise in the work the Bingham Centre undertakes.
People are more aware of the principles that inform the rule of law according to he said, because“with Scots, it is fundamentally in the blood to a greater extent than it is elsewhere”.