News In Focus
Act now to protect human rights post-Brexit: new Scots campaign plea
Over 100 charities, campaign groups and civil society leaders have joined forces to launch a new Scotland Declaration on Human Rights, calling for action by law and policy makers to protect rights in the face of Brexit.
The move comes as new research shows considerable public support for human rights, though a degree of ambivalence among many people.
The Scotland Declaration is an initiative of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, with backing from the Equality & Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission. Signatories include trade unions, faith groups, national charities and professional bodies such as the British Medical Association and Scottish Football Association.
It states that the signatories "share profound concerns about the potential loss of equality and rights protections as a consequence of the UK leaving the European Union and about the persistent negative rhetoric around the protection and promotion of rights in the UK", and calls on Scotland’s law and policy makers to take all possible steps to protect people’s rights. "We want Scotland to be a leader and not a laggard in human rights terms", it asserts.
These opening statements are followed by a set of principles that should apply in all decisions affecting human rights:
- there should be no reduction or regression in human rights protection as respects any individual or group;
- human rights standards should be continually strengthened over time;
- any changes to existing protections must be preceded by fully transparent consultation and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny;
- Scottish people must be engaged in a process of understanding their rights, how they are protected and what more can be done on that respect – and "any significant change" must observe this.
Carried out in 2017 by YouGov through a survey of more than 1,500 adults across Scotland, the newly published research found that 42% of respondents agreed with positive statements about human rights and disagreed with negative statements; 30% agreed with both positive and negative statements; 13% agreed only with the negative statements; and 14% had no firm views.
In a joint statement, the organisers of the Declaration said: "We are delighted to see this strong level of support for human rights in Scotland. However, there is no room for complacency. There is still work to be done to demonstrate the value and importance of human rights to everyone in their everyday lives – particularly when it comes to showing those who are not yet persuaded that human rights can and do make a real positive difference to our society.
"We are also concerned about the potential loss of protections for rights as a consequence of Brexit, and about the impact of the persistent negative rhetoric around human rights in parts of the UK, particularly in politics and the media. We are therefore calling on law and policy makers to show leadership in these challenging times, taking all possible steps to protect rights and equality for everyone, and putting Scotland on the map as a world leader on these issues. It is extremely heartening to see so many organisations, from right across Scottish civil society, join us in making this call."
Click here to access the Declaration, which is open to signature by other supportive bodies.