In the first week of taking office, our newly elected government has prioritised an agenda to remove the keystone of human rights in this country and dismantle vital legal protections for each and every citizen. We, the undersigned, wish to express our opposition to the Government’s plans to extend the surveillance state, weaken Freedom of […]May 15, 2015
In the first week of taking office, our newly elected government has prioritised an agenda to remove the keystone of human rights in this country and dismantle vital legal protections for each and every citizen. We, the undersigned, wish to express our opposition to the Government’s plans to extend the surveillance state, weaken Freedom of Information legislation and, above all, its declared intent to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act.
We are deeply concerned at the implications for individuals and institutions, not least because the European Convention of Human Rights forms a fundamental part of the devolution settlements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Repealing the 1998 Act would, we believe, undermine key elements of constitutional relationships within the UK, and have ramifications for our place within the European Union. The Government has yet to publish any significant detail on its proposed ‘British Bill of Rights’ but we are alarmed by the ‘extremist’ language being used by ministers and their supporters in certain sections of the fourth estate. It is clear, however, that these plans represent a major transfer of power away from ordinary citizens and towards the state, corporations and large vested interests, including a diminution of the rights of individuals to sue governments.
Our free press enjoys many legal protections based on its historic function of holding governments and power to account. With these plans certain to place the basis of our civil rights under huge duress, we call on our free press to fulfil this essential, historic role as a defender of our freedoms.
All of our human rights have been under almost continuous assault since the turn of this century. Removal of the Human Rights Act will have many and unforeseen consequences but in the context of an already imminent increase in powers of surveillance and tightening anti-terrorist laws, the introduction of new legal definitions makes free speech more vulnerable than at any time since 1945. Scottish PEN will work with English PEN, Wales PEN Cymru and other PEN centres and human rights organisations across Europe to oppose the repeal of the Human Rights Act – including any consequent attempt by the British Government to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights.
As writers, we believe the right to free expression is fundamental to a healthy society and its relationship to the wider world. We will defend that right and all associated freedoms against attack from any vested interest or government body. We hope others will join us.
Drew Campbell, President, Scottish PEN
Council of the Scottish Society of Playwrights
A C Clarke
Roy Dalgleish (Linlithgow Book Festival)
Christine De Luca
Una Leonie Flett
Dr Peta Freestone
Mark O. Goodwin
Maggie Graham (Scottish Writers’ Centre)
James Kelman (non-member)
Dr Margaret A Mackay
Ann E MacKinnon
Graeme Macrae Burnet
Alexander McCall Smith
Andrew Murray Scott
Dr Mario Relich
Chrys Salt MBE
Sue Reid Sexton
Harry D. Watson
Douglas Stuart Wilson