SHRC describes British Bill of Rights proposals as ‘regressive’

Kavita Chetty

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has added its voice to the opposition to the proposed “British Bill of Rights”.

Despite reports that Prime Minister Theresa May had “junked” the plans, it was confirmed by Justice Secretary Liz Truss this week that they will be going ahead.

The SHRC has called the plans “regressive” and does not believe there is any appetite in Scotland for them.

Kavita Chetty, head of strategy and legal for the SHRC, told CommonSpace: “The UK government has repeatedly said it will bring forward proposals for a new British Bill of Rights. The commission believes the Human Rights Act already does a good job of protecting the 15 rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

“There is no appetite in Scotland for regressive changes to our human rights laws. People and organisations in Scotland are far more concerned with questions of how to better fulfil all human rights in practice, in people’s everyday lives.

“Continued threats to the Human Rights Act by the UK government must not distract from this important challenge.”

In contrast, the Law Society of Scotland said in May that a British Bill of Rights should build on the Human Rights Act by providing for amendment of legislation incompatible with the Convention and by clarifying the application of rights to private bodies acting in a public capacity.

Michael Clancy, director of law reform at the Law Society, said: “We believe that the Human Rights Act 1998 is a key component of our society and has been extremely effective in protecting our rights through the domestic courts in the UK. It provides a way for individuals to challenge the actions of the state and seek redress in a more accessible, timely and affordable way than was possible before incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law.

“However we think there is room for improvement of the act, and the proposed British Bill of Rights should build on and enhance the protections we currently have. For example it could include a provision of a better way to amend legislation which has been declared incompatible with ECHR by the courts. It could also offer more clarity than the Human Rights Act on how such rights would apply to private bodies exercising public functions or providing public services as well as individuals.”

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