Alex Salmond: Tories will scrap Human Rights Act and damage Scottish equality

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SNP First Minister Alex Salmond says Scotland’s gains on LGBT rights would be at risk under a future Tory government without independence.

“This referendum is a choice of two futures,” he warned. “Senior ministers in the current Westminster Government favour abolition of the current Human Rights Act, and even complete withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – putting LGBTI equality in Scotland at risk and sending a strong message to the international community on how they view human rights and equality.”

The Conservatives have hinted at withdrawing from the European Court and Convention of Human Rights and opting instead for a British bill of human rights.

Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Simon Hughes criticised the plans in an interview with PinkNews.

Mr Salmond made the remarks in response to a questionnaire submitted to Scotland’s six main political leaders by the Equality Network.

He said: “Independence is a once in a lifetime opportunity to embed and enhance LGBTI rights. With Independence we will be able to enshrine LGBTI equality in a written constitution – ensuring our rights cannot be easily reversed by any government.

“With a No vote we face the prospect of another Tory government committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act…It’s only with the full powers of an independent country that we can finally secure true equality for LGBTI people and a fairer society for all.”

The First Minister said the equality protections of a Scottish constitution would include: age, disability, gender identity, gender reassignment, intersex status, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Mr Salmond said a Yes victory on 18 September would allow Scotland to make further progress on equality.

“While equality legislation is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Parliament remains constrained in what more progress we can make, including on pensions provisions and equalities protection.”

He continued: “The SNP Scottish Government has repeatedly written to the UK government requesting that competence in the field of equalities is transferred to the Scottish Government, which would allow us design an equality framework that meets the needs of the people of Scotland – before independence in 2016.”

“Scotland is already a world leader on LGBTI equality,” Mr Salmond said. “The Glasgow Commonwealth Games, for example, allowed us to showcase and share our commitment with other countries around the world. With independence we can and will do more.

“An independent Scotland will be clearly positioned as a country which observes international law and respects and promotes human rights, democratic values, equality and good governance.

“We’ve taken a more progressive approach to LGBTI equality than Westminster with world-leading laws and we’ve also shown that we can innovate through our approach to international development and aid.”

He added: “With complete control over foreign policy and international development we will be able to make full use of diplomatic relations and actively promote LGBTI equality and human rights around the world.

“Independence will also allow us to adopt a new humane approach to asylum seekers and refugees that offers protection to those facing persecution.”

The First Minister continued: “Control over immigration and asylum, alongside equality legislation, is one of the big opportunities of independence and will be important in supporting Scotland’s ambition to be a progressive, welcoming and inclusive state.

“With independence we can have a new humane approach to asylum seekers and refugees in line with our values and commitment to upholding internationally recognised human rights. Our approach stands in stark contrast to Westminster’s aggressive approach that is best exemplified by their offensive ‘go home’ advertising campaign.

“Scotland has a very clear position on promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and intersex rights both at home and abroad.”