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Scotland's manifestos - how do they compare on human rights?

By Paul Daly, Advocacy and Activism Officer, Scotland


With polling day for the 2016 Scottish elections just a couple of days away, most of us are looking forward to it all being over!  Over the last few weeks we’ve seen party leaders debate, take part in strange photo shoots and present us with their manifestos.

Lots of organisations have produced some great analysis, such as the Equalities Network who have looked at the LGBTI commitments, Engender have one on the gender commitments, and the Scottish Refugee Council who have teased out all of the associated pledges for refugees.  Take a look at their websites for this analysis.

There are still a couple of areas that will be of interest to Scottish Amnesty International members and followers:

  • The Human Rights Act
  • Police
  • Justice
  • International Relations

Responses are listed alphabetically by party, and represent the parties elected into the Holyrood in 2011.  The manifestos can be viewed in full from their party’s website: Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and SNP.


Don’t forget, it’s not too late to ask you candidates to put human rights at the heart of the election with our easy to use e-action! Once you have done it, remember to share it online.


Human Rights Act

Scottish Conservatives: No mention of the Human Rights Act, or if the Scottish Conservatives will support their UK colleagues 2015 election manifesto commitment to scrap the Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights.

Scottish Greens: Scottish Greens will defend our human rights legislation and protect all groups in society.  Green MSPs will strongly oppose the repeal of the Human Rights Act, advocate for a Bill of Rights to safeguard our civil liberties, and support the incorporation of international treaties into Scots law.

Scottish Labour: A Scottish Labour Government will stand up for citizens’ individual rights and protect the Human Rights Act.  We will right the wrongs for the people denied that basic human right to work – a Scottish Labour Government will deliver a full inquiry into the practice of blacklisting trade unionists in Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats: No mention of the Human Rights Act in the manifesto but the Lib Dems have committed to retaining it before and during the election campaign.

SNP: We will continue to oppose UK Government plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and refuse to consent to its abolition.



Scottish Conservatives: We believe a thorough review of the arrangements in place (of Police Scotland) must be conducted as soon as possible and this should include looking at ways in which local accountability can be restored.

Scottish Greens: It is vital that robust checks and balances regulate the police force. Green MSPs will advocate for proportionate use of force; an evidenced need for any firearms deployment; a review of authorisation procedures and privacy protection mechanisms regarding surveillance powers; and a review of the police complaints procedure, with a view to introducing greater independence from the Police.

Scottish Labour: We want a police force people respect and trust and which is visible in our communities, keeping us safe.  Labour will implement the recommendations of the Pearson Review into policing in Scotland, including giving more power back to local communities.

We’ll support victims of rape to come forward and train more police officers to handle the issue of rape sensitively and without judgement

Scottish Liberal Democrats: Bring democracy back to Scottish policing.  Strengthen the role of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner to look into serious incidents, addressing the shortcoming in the present power to question police officers immediately after a serious incident.

SNP: We will strengthen the accountability of policing by implementing the conclusions of the governance review being led by the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA). 

Scotland’s police are not and will not be routinely armed. The Scottish Government is working closely with all of Scotland’s emergency services to ensure that Scotland is appropriately and proportionately protected against all forms of threat, including terrorism. This includes consideration of Police Scotland’s armed policing capacity and capability.



Scottish Conservatives: Legal aid provisions need simplified, reviewed and supported by sufficient levels of funding.  We will continue to support extending legal aid to rape victims to allow them to get advice when opposing legal teams try to access their medical records.

For some of the worst crimes committed, prisoners should not have the right to apply for parole.

Scottish Greens: It is vital that everyone in Scotland is able to access justice as a fundamental human right. Green MSPs will work to ensure that geography and means are not barriers to accessing justice, and will push to enhance Legal Aid.

Access to justice for survivors of gender based violence is undermined by a number of key issues. We will work to establish a right to independent legal representation for women who have experienced domestic abuse and rape and sexual assault; remove means testing for Protective Orders; abolish the not proven verdict in Scottish law for all crimes; and implement medical examination guidelines.

Green MSPs will support measures to strengthen protection for children from assault, including removal of the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.

Scottish Labour:  We will review the legal aid system to ensure it enables equality of access to justice.  In particular, we’ll protect legal aid for family law cases, recognising it’s often a lifeline for women.

We will put victims at the heart of the justice system. Victims of crime deserve compassion and support, so we will review and reform the Victim Information and Advice service. We will consult on allowing the evidence of vulnerable witnesses to be pre-recorded and undertake an urgent review of the Victim Notification Scheme.

Where the justice system has failed people and victims, such as in cases of historic abuse, we will act to put those injustices right and create opportunities for appropriate redress.

Scottish Liberal Democrats: Protect free speech, investigative journalism and academic peer-reviewed publishing through reform of the law on defamation to ensure it is suitable for the digital age, has a ‘public interest’ defence, and is available for genuine cases and not used to curtail free expression.

Incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law by primary legislation in the Scottish Parliament and encourage the same in the UK Parliament. Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 in line with the minimum recommended by the UN. Ensure that the stop and search code of conduct fully recognises the unique vulnerability of children and to listen to the persuasive evidence against the introduction of a potential new search power for children based on the possession of alcohol. Legislate to prohibit physical punishment of children.

SNP: We will reform and modernise Scotland’s system of Legal Aid, to continue to maintain wide access to public funding for legal advice and representation in both civil and criminal cases alongside measures to expand access to alternatives methods of resolving disputes.

We will establish Community Justice Scotland to provide leadership and strategic direction in the planning and delivery of community sentences.

We will improve community-based alternatives to short-term prison sentences, including restricting liberty through the increased use of electronic monitoring, combined with support in the community.


International Relations

Scottish Conservatives: Scotland has played an important part in promoting equalities and social and environmental justice around the world. The Scotland Malawi Partnership has been one of the best examples of what Scotland can do in an international arena and we should continue to support the International Development Fund, increasing it to £10m every year.

Scottish Greens: Scottish Greens believe that we should establish and develop the institutions that will allow Scotland to become a strong global actor on issues such as human rights, sustainable development, democracy and conflict resolution.

The UK has a long history of profiteering from the arms trade, and has utterly failed to give any meaning to the phrase “ethical foreign policy”. Ending government support for arms fairs, banning the export of offensive weapons and regulating private arms brokers and security consultants would take us in the right direction.

Scottish Labour:  A Scottish Labour Government will increase this fund (International Development) in real terms in the course of the next Parliament.

The rise of worldwide human displacement is a generational challenge. Scotland can be a beacon for the human right of refugee protection. We must put the structures in place to welcome and integrate those forced to flee their own countries, right across all of Scotland’s communities.

Scottish Liberal Democrats: Scottish Liberal Democrats will make that our approach at home and our liberal values, not least human rights, LGBTI equality and sustainable development, will guide our work internationally.

Introduce a protocol on human rights for Scottish public agencies operating in countries where there is cause for concern.

SNP: We will put human rights and the rights of women at the heart of our international relations work. 

Our relationships and engagement with the international community are important – they benefit trade, investment, travel, education and knowledge exchange, and help to promote our values, including human rights.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

As someone whose legal human rights have been and are being crushed by police, prosecutors and courts in Aberdeen, Scotland, I have to caution against taking a word of Scottish political manifestos seriously.

Unless of course someone at party HQ slipped up and published an honest manifesto by mistake ...

"We Scottish politicians trust the professional standards of police, prosecutors and judiciary - just so long as they keep on crushing and criminalizing our political critics, keep on raiding and ransacking the homes of our critics, seizing their property, arresting, prosecuting and making our critics political prisoners.
Just so long as the state officials don't start abusing us, their pay-masters. That's what WE mean by 'accountability'."

In my case, the police seized my irreplaceable science data in July 2014 and have refused to return it to this day. I need that science data returned to me urgently so that I can continue with my scientific duties to humanity.

I also need a good human rights lawyer because my previous lawyer is withdrawing from acting because I wrote to the prosecutors. Tel, Aberdeen 01224 583906

Peter Dow is a Scottish scientist and a republican socialist whose legal human rights are cruelly violated by the police and courts in Aberdeen, where he lives.

Peter Dow's political defence blog publishes the truth about the wrongful and unjust royalist arrests, prosecutions, convictions and punishments he endures.

Peter Dow 8 years ago