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Legislation proposing a new British Bill of Rights is “shocking and unnecessary”, Scotland’s equalities minister has said.
UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab published the Bill on Wednesday, saying it would “restore a healthy dose of common sense” to the justice system.
The legislation, which will work as a successor to the Human Rights Act, asserts that the Supreme Court is the ultimate decision maker on human rights issues in the UK and the country does not always have to follow case law from the European Court of Human Rights.
The Strasbourg court previously disrupted the Government’s flagship policy for asylum seekers who arrive on unauthorised journeys, which would see some sent to Rwanda.
Our modern Bill of Rights will strengthen the UK tradition of freedom of speech, and better protect the public from dangerous criminals.
We are restoring a health dose of common sense into the justice system. ⤵ pic.twitter.com/ppzQF5I9fe
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) June 22, 2022
Scottish Government minister Christina McKelvie has condemned the proposed legislation.
“This shocking and unnecessary legislation seeks to put UK ministers above some of the most fundamental checks and balances that underpin our democracy,” she said.
“The fact remains that we do not need a new Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Act is one of the most important laws passed by the UK Parliament.
“For more than 20 years it has delivered fairness and justice – protecting our rights to privacy and liberty, freedom of expression and peaceful protest.
“It has prevented discrimination, inhumanity and the abuse of power.
“The UK Government’s Rwanda policy has been challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. This legislation appears to be part of its response – an attempt to remove safeguards protecting every member of our society.
“As a founding signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the UK Government should be championing international human rights standards and the rule of law. Instead its ministers appear intent on damaging the UK’s global reputation.”
Mr Raab sought to assure MPs that the legislation would not mean the UK would leave the ECHR, which underpins both human rights and peace in Northern Ireland.
Ms McKelvie went on to claim the Bill is an act of “vandalism”, adding it would be “unacceptable” if changes are made that impact Scotland without the express consent of the Scottish Parliament.
Devolved administrations are asked to consent on Westminster legislation that will have an impact on devolved areas, but the votes of legislative consent motions are not binding, meaning the UK Government is not required to heed the will of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland’s governments.
The Bill proposes to swap out the Human Rights Act in the Scotland Act – the legislation which created the Scottish Parliament – replacing it with the Bill of Rights.