A fight must be mounted to ensure Brexit doesn't rip our rights from us, says civil society groups
Brexit will strip the most vulnerable people in our society of vital rights – and could create more inequality.
Scottish civil society leaders have warned that a fight must be mounted to safeguard essential protections in case they are ripped away as the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
In a major new report, the Scottish Human Rights Consortium says that the EU provided rights for children, women, disabled people, and workers, as well as rights that are enjoyed by everyone such as access to a clean environment.
Experts from 12 different civil society groups argue that Brexit has put all of that under threat.
Without the EU pushing rights forward, the report states, there are real worries that legal rights may be reduced, and that progress on achieving greater rights for disadvantaged people will stall.
Mhairi Snowden, coordinator of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, said: “Many of the rights that all of us take for granted are at risk if Scotland leaves the EU. Rights bring respect and dignity for all of us, whether that is an older person in a care home, a pregnant woman at work, or a disabled person having access to public buildings.
“Individuals need to be able to claim their legal rights to make sure that everyone – no matter their identity or circumstances – is treated with dignity and respect.
“It is vital that in all negotiations about Scotland’s future, rights for the individual are built into the very fabric of our public services, law and society.”
Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director, said: “There is still a great deal of uncertainty what Brexit will mean for the UK or Scotland. Even as it negotiates its exit, the UK government must ensure that leaving the EU does not result in lesser rights protections than we currently have.
“Critically, we must guard against any moves to view Brexit as a stepping-stone to withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights.”
Joyce MacMillan, honorary president of Scottish Environment Link, added: “Through contributions from 12 major civil society groups across Scotland – in areas ranging from the environment and women’s rights to employment rights, social care and refugee support – this report seeks to draw attention to the rights and protections which may be put at risk by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“We must now begin the debate about what we can do, in civil society and through our political institutions, to ensure that Britain’s departure from the EU does not act as a signal for a bonfire of rights, joining a global ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of environmental, employment and other protections. This report should act both as an alarm call, and a call to action.”
Other contributors to the report, are the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, Disability Agenda Scotland, Engender, Equality Network, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council, Unison and Youthlink Scotland.