Scottish Party Manifesto's - how do they compare on human rights?

Scottish Manifesto's
© Paul Daly

When the snap general election was called a few weeks ago, Amnesty International in Scotland announced our manifesto recommendations for all parties in Scotland (see download below).

Now that all of the main parties in Scotland (those elected into the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments) have launched their own manifestos, we thought it might be useful to produce a quick reference guide to see how the match up.  In doing so, we do not wish to promote any party more than others, only to reflect what they have promised to do.  Broadly, our manifesto recommendations fall into six areas.  Below, these are outlined, and we see what the parties have to say about them (good and bad!) in their manifestos (listed alphabetically).

Commit to ensuring human rights are prioritised and protected throughout and beyond the process of leaving the EU

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • We will control immigration and secure the entitlements of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
  • We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law. 

Scottish Greens

  • We will push for the Brexit deal to include retention of freedom of movement, including the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK, for young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU.

Scottish Labour

  • A Labour government will immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • We will press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty. We will call for the overhaul and simplification of the registration process and the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and UK citizenship, as the current system is not fit for purpose. We will urge the government, and use our influence with Liberal leaders in European countries, to secure the same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries.

Scottish National Party

  • The SNP will continue to stand up for the rights of EU citizens at Westminster. And if the UK government chooses not to give EU nationals the certainty they deserve, then immigration powers should be devolved so that Scotland can do so.

 

Commit to defending UK human rights protections

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law.  We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes.  We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.

Scottish Greens

  • We will respect the basic human rights of all citizens and will celebrate the progress made as part of Europe.  Brexit must not be used as an excuse to water down or repeal any other domestic protections, such as the Equality Act 2010.  We support the UK remaining part of the European Convention Human  Rights, will oppose any effort to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, and support adopting the European Social Charted to protect fundamental social and economic rights.

Scottish Labour

  • Labour will retain the Human Rights Act.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Many important protections such as the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and rights to annual leave are currently based on EU law, and many of these rights have been upheld at the European Court of Justice. Liberal Democrats will fight to ensure that these entitlements are not undermined.

Scottish National Party

  • The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is enshrined in the Scotland Act 1998, ensuring that human rights are protected by the Scottish Government and all Scottish legislation. The SNP re-affirms its commitment to the Council of Europe, the ECHR and their institutions.
  • We will fight to protect human rights across the UK. SNP MPs will oppose any attempts by the UK government to scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the ECHR.

 

Commit to Protecting the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK and elsewhere

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • Wherever possible, the government will offer asylum and refuge to people in parts of the world affected by conflict and oppression, rather than to those who have made it to Britain.  We will work to reduce the number of asylum claims made in Britain and, as we do so, increase the number of people we help in the most troubled regions.

Scottish Greens

  • Scotland can welcome many more migrants and asylum seekers who enrich our culture and are an asset to the economy.  We will promote a humane and compassionate immigration and asylum system, with bespoke policy for Scotland including the post-study work visa to allow students who study at UK universities to stay.

Scottish Labour

  • Labour will take all necessary measures to protect the security of our citizens and country. We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention, and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Apply the asylum system fairly, efficiently and humanely including the process for those who have no right to be here.
  • Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees to prevent them from making dangerous journeys, which too often result in the loss of life, for example via reform of family reunion rules to make it easier for refugees to join relatives already living in safety in the UK.
  • Expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 over the lifetime of the next parliament.
  • Re-open the Dubs unaccompanied child refugee scheme, ensuring Britain meets its responsibilities by taking in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Liberal Democrats would offer these children indefinite leave to remain, meaning they will not be deported once they turn 18.
  • End indefinite immigration detention by introducing a 28-day limit.
  • Speed up the processing of asylum claims, reducing the time genuine refugees must wait before they can settle into life in the UK.
  • Expect working-age asylum seekers who have waited more than six months for their claim to be processed to seek work like other benefit claimants, and only to receive benefits if they are unable to do so.
  • Offer asylum to people fleeing countries where their sexual orientation or gender identification means that they risk imprisonment, torture, or execution and stop deporting people at risk to such countries.

Scottish National Party

  • Those who have waited six months for an asylum decision should be able to use their skills and to support themselves by taking up work – as most EU countries allow. We will continue to oppose the continued cuts to support that have led to asylum seekers becoming destitute.
  • We need to fundamentally change the UK government’s system for housing asylum seekers. The disgraceful condition of the housing provided and the contracts the UK government has with providers have been roundly criticised by all parties. The Scottish Government’s work to resettle Syrian refugees has shown how people can be supported and welcomed into communities and should be used as basis for settling asylum seekers in the future. We will urge the UK government to work with the devolved administrations, local authorities and local communities to provide services for asylum seekers rather than use private contractors who have profit rather than people as their prime motive.
  • There needs to be reform to the detention and asylum system for LGBTI individuals escaping countries where homosexuality is still criminalised, removing unfair and invasive demands for ‘proof’ of sexuality or gender identity.

 

Commit to a UK foreign policy which champions human rights

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • No mention of foreign policy

Scottish Greens

  • We will reduce military spending and reorient the armed forces away from the projection of power and towards… UN-sanctioned humanitarian efforts.

Scottish Labour

  • Labour will take all necessary measures to protect the security of our citizens and country. We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention, and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Support free media and a free and open internet around the world, championing the free flow of information.
  • Support the current UN initiative to protect journalists and to combat the impunity with which many countries treat those who attack reporters on the frontline. To this end, we will provide ad hoc funding to UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication.
  • Campaign strongly for the abolition of the death penalty around the world.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world, and advancing the cause of LGBT+ rights.
  • Appoint an Ambassador-level Champion for Freedom of Belief to drive British diplomatic efforts in this field, and campaign for the abolition of blasphemy, sedition, apostasy and criminal libel laws worldwide, having already been responsible for ending them in this country.

Scottish National Party

  • The SNP Scottish Government has committed to “always consider the human rights implications of its engagement with countries and business” and to ensure that “investment agreements should only be signed where appropriate due diligence, including on the human rights record of companies involved, has been undertaken.” The SNP Scottish Government is now engaging with Amnesty International to put these commitments into practice. SNP MPs will demand that the UK government follows the lead of the Scottish Government.
  • SNP MPs will support the establishment of a special envoy to promote the rights of LGBTI people throughout the world, as an integral part of UK foreign policy - helping to alleviate the discrimination and persecution faced by LGBTI people in Chechnya and across the world.
  • SNP MPs will back an immediate reversal [of the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied children] to ensure safe and legal routes are open. In addition, the Dublin Regulation process needs to be simplified, reformed, and properly implemented so that those with family in the UK can be more easily reunited with them.
  • SNP MPs will urge the UK government to take action on the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees including implementing a National Refugee Integration Strategy that ensures all agencies coordinate support for refugees and helps refugees take part in, and contribute to, our society.
  • The SNP will always defend the system of international protection of refugees that provides a place of safety for those facing serious harm or persecution. We need to ensure that the system of assessing asylum claims is thorough and fair and treats all passing through it with dignity. Those who have waited six months for an asylum decision should be able to use their skills and to support themselves by taking up work – as most EU countries allow. We will continue to oppose the continued cuts to support that

 

Commit to ensuring responsible arms controls which protect human rights

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

No mention of the arms trade

Scottish Greens

  • We would end the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, Israel and other repressive regimes.

Scottish Labour

  • Labour will … implement the Arms Trade Treaty to a consistently high standard, including ceasing arms exports to countries where there is concern that they will be used to violate international humanitarian law.
  • In particular, Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Control arms exports to countries listed as human rights priority countries in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual human rights report, and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  • Suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to their consistent targeting of civilians, in breach of International Humanitarian Law, in Yemen. We will work with international partners to re-commence the peace process in Yemen.
  • Improve control of arms exports by:
    • Implementing a policy of ‘presumption of denial’ for arms exports to countries listed as Human Rights Priority Countries in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual human rights report.
    • Enforcing end-user certification on all future arms export licenses with an annual report to Parliament on this certification.

Scottish National Party

  • SNP MPs have led the calls for resolution of the destructive conflict in South Yemen. Given the clear evidence that munitions supplied by the United Kingdom have been used in breach of international law, there should be an immediate ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending proper investigation.
  • And we will urge the UK government to immediately halt all military support and arms sales to regimes suspected of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

 

Commit to putting the rights of women and girls front and centre of government policy

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • We will work to end the subjugation and mutilation of women, to combat the brutal slave trade in fellow human beings…

Scottish Greens

  • We will abolish the ‘family cap’, the ‘benefit cap’ and the ‘bedroom tax’, and reverse cuts to the social security safety net brought in by Conservative welfare reform acts.  These changes have hit women and disabled people hardest, and pushed more people into working poverty. 

Scottish Labour

  • Cuts to public services and social security are landing disproportionately on women and ethnic minorities, with 86 per cent of the money raised from the Tories’ tax and social security changes coming from the pockets of women.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Prioritise support, protection and equal rights for women and girls, which is both right and essential for effective, sustainable economic development. We will aim to end female genital mutilation worldwide within a generation.

Scottish National Party

  • Dr Eilidh Whiteford became the first SNP MP ever to have a Private Member’s Bill reach the statute book. She led a campaign to get the UK government to ratify an important international treaty to prevent and combat sexual and domestic violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls. The Bill will commit the UK government to funding essential services such as women’s refuges and rape crisis helplines. SNP MPs will ensure there is a clear timetable for that to happen.
  • More action needs to be taken to address the gender, race and disability pay gap and tackle pay inequality and occupational segregation. Equal pay audits should cover gender, race and disability. SNP MPs will support lowering the threshold to 150 employees, from the current level of 250 employees, and the introduction of sanctions, including fines, for employers that fail to comply with the law.
  • We support efforts to increase gender balance in the private sector but it is important that governments lead by example.  The Scottish Government is committed to legislating for gender balance in public sector boardrooms. SNP MPs will call on the UK government to do likewise.
  • To tackle workplace discrimination and sexist dress codes, SNP MPs will vote for a change in the Equality Act to strengthen and change the law that currently allows employers to have different dress codes for men and women.
  • The SNP will fight to protect the rights of pregnant women and new mothers afforded under EU laws, ensuring that maternity and workplace rights are not eroded. No-one should face discrimination at work because of pregnancy or childbirth.

 

Manifesto's in full...

All of the Scottish parties manifesto's can be read in full online, just follow the links:

Downloads
Amnesty International - a manifesto for human rights.pdf
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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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