Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

29.  Extract from a Memorandum from Aidan O'Neill QC

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  6.1  Given the different constitutional structure of Scotland post-Devolution and the different constitutional status accorded to human rights, such as to radically affect the remedies which might be open in Scotland in respect of official (in)action which is not in conformity with the requirements of the Convention (and other international obligations), it seems to me that a uniform UK wide Commission on Human Rights would not be sufficiently close to the people and the law as to carry out its envisaged task effectively, at least in Scotland.

  6.2  Similarly, however, a purely Scottish Human Rights Commission set up by and under the devolved Scottish institutions alone might be thought to be insufficiently close to the centres of Westminster and Whitehall power to make any appreciable difference in those areas of domestic law (notably employment and discrimination) which remain the purview of the UK Parliament and have not yet been devolved to Edinburgh.

  6.3  Perhaps the best solution would be for a distinct Scottish Commission for Human Rights to be set up jointly by Westminster and Holyrood. This body would be separate from but associated with its sister Commission(s) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It might be that some general forum might be established at which these various human rights commissions might meet and co-operate in particular initiatives where thought necessary, but also be free to pursue their own agendas, on the line, say of the existing distinct but co-operating Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission.

15 June 2001

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