Sturgeon warns against plans to scrap Human Rights Act

media captionNicola Sturgeon: "The Scottish government will oppose any weakening of human rights protection, not just in Scotland but across the whole of the UK."

Nicola Sturgeon has said it is "inconceivable" that Holyrood would consent to Conservative plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The Scottish First Minister said any move to repeal the act would be a "monumental mistake".

And she would have "no interest" in a deal that protected rights in Scotland but weakened them elsewhere in the UK.

The Conservative UK government has pledged to replace the act with a British Bill of Rights.

UK Justice Secretary Michael Gove is expected to bring forward the government's proposals later this year.

There has been newspaper speculation that Mr Gove will propose that Scotland, which has a separate legal system, could keep the Human Rights Act even if it is scrapped elsewhere in the UK.

But Ms Sturgeon said abolishing the act would diminish the UK's standing in the eyes of the world.

And she predicted that any such move would face cross-party opposition in the Scottish Parliament.

The first minister was speaking as she addressed civic organisations at the Pearce Institute in Glasgow alongside human rights campaigner and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti.

Ms Sturgeon said that while the act was reserved legislation, rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were embedded in the devolution settlement.

She said: "Human rights itself is a devolved issue. That means that any attempt to amend the Human Rights Act is likely, in our view, to require the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.

"It is inconceivable in my opinion, given the support which the act commands across the Scottish Parliament, that such consent would be granted.

"Let me make absolutely clear today, the Scottish government will certainly advocate that it is not granted."

'Legal confusion'

Ms Sturgeon said the UK government appeared not to have any idea how the proposed Bill of Rights would work, and argued that its pledge had created a "completely unnecessary dilemma".

She added: "Nobody believes that the UK government will strengthen existing human rights protections.

"But the UK government must also know that any legislation which weakens human rights protections, will diminish the UK's reputation overseas, damage relations with devolved governments, and impact on the welfare of people within the UK.

"Repealing the Human Rights Act meets no pressing need, and addresses no obvious problem. There is instead a clear risk that it will create legal confusion, harm people in the UK who need support and protection, and give comfort to illiberal governments around the world.

"No responsible government should even be considering such a step."

The Human Rights Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law.

It also requires the UK to take account of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg.

But critics accuse the court of over-reaching itself by, for instance, ruling against the UK's blanket ban on allowing prisoners to vote.

The Conservatives have said they want to give the "final say" on human rights to the UK Supreme Court.

Dominic Raab, the UK's minister for human rights, said: 'A Bill of Rights will restore some common sense to our human rights laws.

"We will be consulting widely, including with the Scottish government. We hope that the Scottish government will engage seriously on the substance of the issue instead of baseless scaremongering."

Scottish Labour welcomed the first minister's speech, saying it was an issue "bigger than party politics".

Scottish Labour equalities spokesperson Drew Smith said: "The Human Rights Act has served people across Scotland well - enshrining our rights in law and giving people added protections.

"Alongside devolution and lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty in Scotland, the Human Rights Act stands as one the great achievements of the last UK Labour Government.

"Scottish Labour believes that every person has universal rights and freedoms and we will oppose any ideological attempts to water those rights down."

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