Commenting on the Bill of Rights Bill introduced by the UK Government today Wednesday, 22 June 2022, the Law Society of Scotland has said that existing rights of those living in the UK must not be diminished by the Bill.

Murray Etherington, President of the Law Society of Scotland. Said: “For over 70 years we have benefited from the protections offered by the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 those rights have been built into UK and Scottish law and it is vital that they are not diminished as a result of new legislation.

“It is reassuring that the UK Government has publicly re-stated its fundamental commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights following the passage of the Bill of Rights. However, there must be very careful consideration given to those areas where the government is seeking to change the law. We would consider any proposals to dilute the human rights which people in the UK currently enjoy, to be a retrograde step.

“This will include examining proposals around the right to respect for family life and the ‘permissions stage’ in UK human rights cases to ensure there is no reduction in people’s rights.”

The Law Society has also said it will be essential to ensure that changes proposed in the Bill do not adversely impact on devolution in Scotland. It pointed out that the right to a trial by jury is not part of Scots Law, and that it is more often the Scotland Act 1998, rather than the UK Human Rights Act 1998, which underwrites human rights protections in the devolved sphere.

Murray Etherington added: “Just this month we, along with 38 other legal bodies from the member states of the European Union and the Council of Europe, which the UK remains a member of, signed the Vienna Declaration in Support of the Rule of Law. It highlights our deep commitment to justice and the rule of law. It remains just as important today as in 1950 with the founding of the ECHR, to ensure that we retain robust human rights protections. We will examine the Bill fully to assess the impact it may have on the rights of people living in Scotland and across the UK.”

Vienna Declaration standing for the Rule of Law in Europe

The Law Society of Scotland has joined its legal peers across Europe in signing the Vienna Declaration in Support of the Rule of Law.