The Referendum Question

The conferences have started. From Holyrood to Glasgow City Chambers academics, lawyers and politicians are beginning to work through the implications of the referendum on whether or not Scotland should be an independent country. I've been attending some of these debates, picking up and contributing to current thinking. A lot of the content has been about complex legal argument or working out how the finances would work.

In some sessions, I’ve been worried by how narrow a perspective is being taken, with some contributors presenting the choice as being between current administrations sitting in Holyrood or Westminster. But the referendum has the potential for impact beyond the life span of any current Government administration or for that matter any of the people who are engaged in the debate and anyone who is entitled to vote. 

In the media we are now seeing weekly commentary on the referendum on issues as diverse as currency, the National Lottery and oil revenues. But what could the referendum mean for Human Rights? 

The fundamental questions for me will be which rights to respect, protect and fulfil and how to go about ensuring this. There are more questions than answers at this stage. I'm not so worried about that because if we ask the questions we will encourage debate and good debate on human rights is something we should all be aiming for anyway. 

What I’m a bit more concerned about is whether we are asking the right questions, in the right places and asking them loudly enough to be heard. For me the debate has moved too quickly away from 'What kind of Scotland do we want to live in?' to detailed argument about, no doubt important but more finite concerns such as oil price fluctuation. There has been some focus on human rights, indeed whole conferences, but it’s largely been contained amongst a human rights aware community of interest, NGOs, legal, and academic circles.

I'd like to see us ask the big questions more publicly. Let’s have our schools holding discussions, get pub quiz teams tackling the issues and encourage families to think about human rights at breakfast tables and on sofas. The kind of Scotland I want to live in is one which respects human rights and I'll be asking what the 'Yes' and 'Better Together' campaigns have to say about the role of human rights in Scotland's future.

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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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