An article in the Guardian brought this little nugget to my attention last night: turns out the Scotland Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, may very well give Scotland the right to veto any repeal of the Human Rights Act. So I asked around to see if this was just Guardianista shit stirring. Nope. Turns out this is a real, bona fide problem for the Tories in relation to repealing the HRA, the target of so much venom over the years on many a Tory leaflet.
Now, in some ways, the one aspect of the Guardian article that is overplayed is the idea that the recommendations of the Smith Commission that make up the Scotland Bill are the deciding factor in ensuring the repeal of the Human Rights Act doesn’t go forward. I think, and I’ve picked this up from the ground as well, that this is precisely what the Tories would love you to believe. Ah, it’s that rabid bunch of Nats at the other end of the Commons that snookered us. We needed to give them this stuff to keep the Union together it turns out. And may I remind you, in the spirit of what I’ve just said, that the name of the party is the Conservative and Unionist Party.
The reality is that repealing the Human Rights Act is a veritable legal minefield for the Tories to try and navigate. I remain convinced the only reason it was included in the Tory manifesto in the first place was because they didn’t think they would possibly get a clear majority and thus the whole thing was obvious Lib Dem bait. So my question now is this: have the Tories set up the Scotland Act in such a way as to give themselves a solid way out of having to do the impossible?
If so, this is ninja level politics. But as we now know, the Tories are capable of such things, despite what us doubters thought during the election campaign (with grave regrets for such pronouncements now). To pawn off what would look like a major climb down onto Sturgeon successfully would be a masterstroke. But then again, one of the reasons this might be possible is because of the weird synergy between the Tories and the SNP. The SNP would be happy to take the “blame” for such a thing given it will actually be a huge win for them, in terms of relating it back to Scottish voters. It was they who saved human rights in Scotland, at threat by the Tories in London. The Conservatives and the SNP are playing to opposite audiences; victory for one can mean almost automatic victory for the other at the same time, in most instances. Thus everyone wins – except for the Labour Party, of course.
As far as I’m concerned, if the whole stupidity of repealing the HRA gets shelved as a result, I’m willing to look the other way. However, watch for this sort of thing to become a trend in future.