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Monday, 16 January 2012

Human Rights in Independent Scotland

  One of the favourite arguments of Scottish national;ists is that Scotland will be a "better place" when it is independentx, which in many ways, is simply a counter to the usual Unionist argument that Westminster has been a "civilising force for good" in Scotland. It is as if without Westminster's guidance, Scots would still be eating their bairns. The Brit/Nats among us seem to revel in the thought that added to all the other "good" reasons why Scotland cannot be independent, the "too wee, too poor, too stupid" variety, it is always worthwhile to have another reason in reserve. "The Scots would soon fall prey to their historic bigotries; Highland v Lowland, Catholic v Protestant" can always be relied on and, whenever James McMillan, the Scots born composer is given space, he can equally be relied on to play his part as the stereotypical bigot. There can be few Scots as good at the self-loathing bit as Mr McMillan, who seems to find nothing worthy of admiration in the country of his birth.

However, we cannot ignore the sectarianism and religous bigotry that has been such a blight on our history and despite the Scottish Enlightenment that did so much to put Scotland on the world map, in terms of science, medicine. engineering, philosophy, education and so on, there have been darker periods when Scotland and the Scots showed the darker side of our character. We were very good at burning and executing witches and per capita, Scotland burned more witches, during the witch hunting periods of the 16th and 17th centuries, than any other country in Europe. That is all behind us and an independent Scotland would be one of the most civilised countries in the world, with a passion for human rights and a commitment to civil liberties that would be second to none - or would it?

Many of the people who are in government in Scotland today, under the leadership of Alex Salmond and holding down ministerial posts in his cabinet, were among the most ardent and passionate advocates of human rights and civil liberties when, as members of the '79 Group in the SNP they were seen as radical and progressive. The passion and rhetoric flowed from them in a steady stream, as they espoused the cause of every trade unionist fighting for workers' rights or every non-payer of the hated poll tax or every human rights activists in ever oppressive regime in the world. There was none more passionate, more radical or more progressive, to say nothing of more cabable of  left-wing rhetoric than Kenny MacAskill. It looked as if Mr MacAskill had held on to his compassion in government, when he released Megrahi, who was diagnosed as dying of cancer and whose demise was thought to be imminent. MacAskill took praise and condemnation in equal measure for his action but, give him his due, he stuck to his guns and released a man who was found guilty of the greatest mass murder in Scotland's history.

In June of 2011, I opened correspondence with Kenny MacAskill, in his capacity as Secretary for Justice in the Scottish government, to try to persaude him to change the law on Third Party Duty of Care. It was my third attempt to get the SNP to cahnge this law. It is not generally known but in Scotland, the law does not provide that third parties are owed a duty of care by local authorities or those employed by them. What that means is that there are certain victims of negligence, mendacity or wilful wrong-doing on the part of public authorities or their employees, who are denied any redress through the courts because the guilty parties enjoy immunity. The granting of that immunity has created a whole series of unintended consequences, sometimes tragic in their outcomes, particularly in the area of child protection. My case is well known, has had widespread publicity not only in this country but also in the United States, where no such immunity for psychiatrists and public officials exists, and needs no further comment here. But what does require comment is the attitude of the Scottish government, particulary if the present incumbents want to continue to persuade us that an independent Scotland is going to be somehow "better."

Rather than argue that there are good reasons why immunity for public authorities and their employees, in the field of child protection, can be justified and, providing those reasons, MacAskill referred me to a House of Lords judgment of 2005, in itself an odd referral from a Nationalist with ambitions for an independent Scotland, which stated, "child abuse is a serious social problem and Health Care Professionals (HCPs) play a vital part in combating the risk...it is best attacked by relieving HCPs of legal proceedings...Uncompensated, innocent parents pay the price but that is a necessary price.."  I told MacAskill I considered that to be an appalling judgegment and asked him three times if the SNP agreed that innocent parents should be victimised in this way. Three times he refused to answer. I also asked him three times how many parents is he prepared to see victimised before he considers the price to be too high. Three times he refused to answer, despite having it pointed out to him there are over 2,500 families in the UK who have had their lives blighted by the uncontrolled actions of public authorities and their employees.

The leader of the local authority involved in my case was SNP and since then has become a MSP and currently sits in Salmond's Cabinet. His name is Bruce Crawford. His lies contributed in large part to the cover up by the local authority and more importantly, to serious disruption and upset in my family. His conduct was made known to the SNP at the time and in my book Unbreakable Bonds, he is mentioned by name, therefore his conduct is in the public domain. It would seem that such conduct is perfectly acceptable in a Cabinet Minister, so long as it is an SNP Cabinet Minister because there would be immediate calls for his resignation if he belonged to any other polticial party.

My attempts to have the law changed in this respect have been covered in newspaper articles in Scotland on Sunday, Perthshire Advertiser and the Scottish Review, as well as in the newsletters of British False Memory Society, FACTion and Safari, all organisations who fight the cause of those who have been falsely accused. As a consequence, I have had contacts from Cornwall, Canada and the United States, as well as other parts of Scotland from parents who have been caught up in the hell created by child protection.
It is a cause that at one time, would have been adopted with relish and passion, by messrs MacAskill and his friends in the '79 Group. As part of the establishment, they obviously see things differently but it does not auger well for individual rights in an independent Scotland. Oh to be a Libyan.

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