When the Conservative Government decided not to include repealing the Human Rights Act in this year’s Queen’s Speech, I did feel a sense of some relief. For so many reasons, as I will outline here, the Human Rights Act offers the British people a number of absolutely essential protections and safeguards against the worst excesses that a Government can inflight. However, my sense of relief has been tempered by the fact that this seems to be a temporary victory – with the right wing tabloids screaming sensationalist headlines such as the Daily Mail saying it is opposed by ‘Left Wing Luvvies’. It seems to be only a matter of time until the Tories bring this up again, and we need to bring a stronger understanding of the positive effects this Act has on our society.
The origins of the Human Rights Act come from the 1950s, when Winston Churchill helped lead the way in setting up the European Convention of Human Rights. Britain was the first to sign this, and ironically it was a Conservative Government that helped lead the way in setting up this ground-breaking agreement. A few years later, the European Court of Human Rights was established.
It was only in 1998 that British judges and the Government had to take into account the decisions of the Court when it came to lawmaking. This came after the Human Rights Act, which ensured that the human rights of British residents would be guaranteed. The law ensured when legislation was made, it had to take into account the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, and judges had to take this into the account in legal cases. As such, in effect a constitutional guarantee of human rights was made in the UK.
However, opposition for the Human Rights Act has come in the form of an authoritarian, right wing nature.
One of the key charges that has been made is that the Human Rights Act places limits on national sovereignty. It is a sad state of affairs when national sovereignty is put as more important than our rights. The fact the Government has to take into account our Human Rights, which the ECHR for designed for, to me is something to be celebrated. If that means a small sacrifice in national sovereignty on what are ultimately matters which are not going to seriously impact on national security, I think that this can only be a good thing. We cannot simply think that the Government will always take a benign interest in safeguarding our rights; the ‘Snoopers’ charter can testify to that. Democracies can and will abuse human rights if there is no constraints, shown by the actions of the USA at Guantanamo Bay.
The other charge, that it helps foreign criminals, is a deeply sad excuse to try and distract from the bigger issues. While the Human Rights Act has been used in some cases by foreign criminals, this argument has only applied to small number of situations. The vast majority of foreign nationals who are ordered to be deported are deported. However, more fundamentally, are criminals not human as well? Should we not ensure, for instance, that those who face being tortured in their home country are safe? Churchill has stated that societies attitude towards its criminals is the measure of “the stored up strength of a nation.” These are wise words, and we should take this into account.
Fundamentally however, there are so many arguments in favour of the Act. Currently Britain leads the world when it comes to the promotion of Human Rights. There are so many countries where people do not have the same freedoms as we have, and it has taken centuries for us to develop these rights. The Human Rights Act is part of that process, and not only is repealing it a regressive and reactionary measure, but it sends the signal internationally to those countries that do not respect Human Rights that their actions are acceptable.
The Human Rights Act also gives our citizens the right to take their case to the British courts. Before this Act, in the situation where the British state was breaking our human rights, we would have to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This made things more difficult for the individual and the state. Now for the most part, our courts can handle the situation, and we can ensure our rights are respected without the same difficulties as before.
The Human Rights Act ensures that the British State has to act in a fair and just manner. In so many ways, our civil liberties are under attack at the moment. The Tories want to scrap this Act and bring in the ‘Snoopers’ Charter to spy on citizens. The SNP are bringing in equally Orwellian legislation in Scotland such as the Super ID database and their centralising agenda. Human Rights are a cherished part of our society, and we must continue to campaign hard to keep them safe.
By Tom Leatherland
As you will probably know, we’ve got just two MP’s vying to lead our party after Nick Clegg has stepped down as leader. With typical Libdem openness, the two of them are participating in a series of hustings events across the UK, before members votes have to be in by the 15th July.
There was an excellent turnout of members for the Edinburgh hustings, including a good group from Dunfermline, which included at least one member who’s joined since the election. The format of the hustings was simple: each candidate gave a 10 minute presentation, with the other out of the room, and then both answered a series of questions from the floor for the balance of the two hours scheduled.
I guess I’m not alone in having seen more of Tim Farron than Norman Lamb, over the last few years, simply because Tim was our Party President. Then on Friday evening, Norman was on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Any Questions’ programme to which I paid particular attention. He gave several excellent answers which were very well received by the London audience. I was impressed. His leadership bid is also backed by Baroness Shirley Williams who I’ve seen many times, and hold in high regard. I was realising what a strong leadership candidate he is, and he’s clearly well regarded within his Norfolk constituency, as well as by all those who know him for his work in promoting the cause of treating mental health problems.
Tim Farron’s leadership bid is backed by Willie Rennie – another whom I hold in high regard and who has demonstrated sound judgement. So I was paying attention to what both had to say at the hustings. Both gave powerful, liberal, opening addresses. That really didn’t help differentiate them.
Then came the questions, and what a good array of searching questions on widely differing subjects they were, covering personal, political and policy issues. Back came the answers; good liberal answers from them both, but nuances and delivery styles were inevitably different. Both clearly recognised the threat of climate change and renewables, but steered clear of the tricky issue of nuclear power (my views on that may differ from the Party’s!). During the course of the morning, my feeling that we’ve got two strong leadership contenders was confirmed, and I learned a bit more about the background of both of them. Our party should be safe with either of them, but I have to make a choice and cast my vote for one of them.
The Conservatives have set out plans to abolish the Human Rights Act and the Lib Dems are leading the campaign to stop them from doing this.
The Human Rights Act helps ensures our fundamental rights are protected and prevents the Government from disregarding these. Examples of protections offered include:
the right to life;
the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
the right to liberty and security of the person;
the right to a fair trial;
prohibition of punishment without law;
the right to respect for private and family life;
the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
the right to freedom of expression;
the right to freedom of assembly and association;
the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
the right to education;
the right to free elections;
and the prohibition of discrimination.
Since the polls closed, an unprecedented 13,000 people have signed up to join the Lib Dems, helping to help shape the new Lib Dem fightback.
James Calder, Dunfermline Lib Dem activist has commented, ‘It is brilliant to see so many people join the Lib Dems since the election. While I am naturally disappointed with our results, it heartens me to see that so many people agree with me that it is important to see a strong Liberal voice in our Parliament at a time when the Tories are attacking civil liberties through the Snoopers Charter at UK level and SNP are threatening our freedoms with their Super ID databases at Scottish level.’
‘If you agree with me that we need to campaign hard to maintain our hard won freedoms, I urge you to join the Lib Dems today in our fightback for liberal values.’
James Calder was the Dunfermline Lib Dem candidate for the Dunfermline South By-Election. Although he was not elected, he did find this to be a rewarding experience and as such would like to express his gratitude.
James has commented, ‘I really enjoyed campaigning in Dunfermline South and have found it to be such a rewarding experience to promote local issues that need fixing and talk to local residents about what is important for them in Dunfermline.’
‘I would like to thank both everyone who came out and voted for me and Gillian Cole-Hamilton, our General Election candidate, as well as all those that helped me in this campaign. I am making a vow – to keep campaigning hard for improvements to Dunfermline, as I feel in so many ways that Dunfermline needs a fix.’
‘If there is anybody who wishes to join me in campaigning in local issues please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org‘
Tomorrow (Thursday 7th May) is Election Day and our candidates are Gillian Cole-Hamilton for the General Election and James Calder for the Dunfermline South Council By-Election.
Gillian and the Lib Dems nationally are fighting to take the lowest paid out of income tax completely, improve on our NHS and education as well as having a stronger Scottish Parliament in the UK.
James is campaigning on local issues and is putting local residents first, including improving road and pavement surfaces, dealing with litter problems, encouraging community sport and improving education provision.
James has commented, ‘Tomorrow is going to be one of the closest elections in years and I encourage everyone to come out and make their voice heard. The Lib Dems will provide a strong voice for people locally. If elected, my priority is to serve the local community.’
Polling opens at 7am on Thursday 7th May.
Over the past few weeks I have been campaigning hard around Dunfermline South. I have managed to speak to people around the ward, including Pitcorthie, Pitreavie, Duloch, Masterton and Abbeyview and I am more determined than ever to ensure that local residents’ voices are heard in Fife Council.
Many issues have been discussed, from the poor state of roads and pavements in some areas, litter problems and how the Council can respond to them as well as issues relating to education and social care. I have also engaged with people online, including using social media as well as an online survey to find out what is important and what the Council needs to improve on.
My focus is always going to be on Residents’ concerns, and I firmly believe that the best Councillors work on behalf of local residents above party politics. I will be delighted to talk to anyone about the issues that matter to them most, with my contact details available below on this message.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this message. Irrespective of how you plan to vote in the General Election, if you would like a councillor who will put the interests of Dunfermline South first, please give me your vote on Thursday.
Workers across Scotland will benefit from a further £400 tax cut under Liberal Democrat plans to raise the Income Tax threshold to £12,500 in the next Parliament. The Lib Dems delivered on their top election pledge from 2010 to cut taxes for Scottish workers – to the tune of £800 a year – but now they want to go even further.
The Conservatives are trying to take credit for the tax cut but let’s not forget that they said it was unaffordable in the run up to the last election. The Lib Dems had their commitment to cut taxes for Scottish workers on the front page of their manifesto, and cutting taxes for those on low and middle incomes will be a top priority for them again.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats are leading the campaign for a stronger Scotland within the UK
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have a strong and proud record of delivering more powers to Scotland. They have led the fight every time more powers have been taken away from London and given to Scotland, and were instrumental in the formation of the Scottish Parliament.
The Liberal Democrats are now working to strengthen the Scottish Parliament further, with control of major taxes and a new £3 billion Scottish welfare system. The Scottish Parliament needs to be strengthened so that it can raise much more of the money it spends through new tax powers. That way Scotland can determined its own destiny on domestic issues while retaining the strength and security that comes with being part of the UK.
The Liberal Democrats in Westminster will work hard to ensure that David Cameron and Ed Miliband honour their pledge to Scotland, and secure the powerful change that Scotland needs.
James Calder, by-election candidate for Dunfermline South, has been campaigning for the Council to do more about litter. One of the most obvious ways to deal with this is by additional bin provision, which James has been keen to highlight.
On a recent trip to Anstruther to enjoy the seaside, something else caught James’ eye – the high tech Big Belly bins. After discovering this new innovation, James felt compelled to investigate further.
James has commented, ‘The Big Belly bins in Anstruther use green solar power to compact the waste, in order to reduce the issue of overflowing bins and reduce the necessity to empty bins as often. They also can apparently alert staff as to when the bin is full.’
‘This has obvious implications for helping to reduce litter, as they prevent litter from flying about when it is getting full. While I am sure there is an expensive start-up cost, over the long-term the benefits could be superb if it can help reduce litter problems. This would make Dunfermline a more attractive place to live in the long-run and could also boost its tourism potential if it is a cleaner environment.’