Shami Chakrabarti

NationalThe years when Shami Chakrabarti seemed to be ubiquitous on our screens are long gone – but the Director of Liberty is still around, particularly in her campaign to preserve the deeply flawed Human Rights Act. Yesterday, she was in Scotland, appearing on a platform with Nicola Sturgeon.

Following a pro-HRA speech by the First Minister, Chakrabarti lavished her with praise, saying:

“I have waited for a long time for a senior politician in power to make a speech like that…The First Minister of Scotland shows international leadership today. She vows to defend the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights and the vulnerable against the powerful everywhere – including refugees. Her message leaves no room for doubt. Policies of divide and rule must not succeed in stripping us of our universal rights and freedoms.”

That’s quite the endorsement, particularly from someone who is supposedly sceptical of those in power.

In this instance, a bit more scepticism would have been justified. For while Sturgeon’s “message leaves no room for doubt”, had Chakrabarti actually looked at her actions she would have found a rather different picture.

Sturgeon’s SNP Government, who Chakrabarti claims are supporting “our universal rights and freedoms”, is currently pursuing a plan which would, in the words of the Open Rights Group, create “a national ID system”. That was in February – a few days after Chakrabarti had gushingly welcomed the Scottish Government’s support for her latest campaign. Coincidentally, Liberty haven’t had a lot to say about the rebirth of the ID database in Scotland.

This is the same SNP Government which has centralised control of Scotland’s police – police who are now springing surprise drug swab tests onto revellers without any reason for suspicion other than that they are on a night out. Strangely, not a peep has been heard from Liberty.

Most notoriously, this is the same SNP Government which is pursuing the disturbing introduction of “Named Persons” rules, which will allocate a state-appointed guardian for every child, and imbue them with powers of oversight over the child and his or her parents. As the Manifesto Club suggests, this is a gross intrusion into family life and the privacy of the home – the state appointment of “shadow parents, a competing authority for every family in making decisions about the welfare or wellbeing of children”. Search as I might, I can’t find any mention of the policy on the Liberty website.

Liberty, it seems, have lost interest in liberty – preferring for their Director to praise Nicola Sturgeon than to challenge the First Minister about her erosions of freedom. It’s worth noting that the Human Rights Act which Chakrabarti praises Sturgeon for defending never protected us from Tony Blair’s infringements on civil liberties, nor has it stopped the SNP Government from treading a similar path.

The responsibility to defend “universal rights and freedoms” against Holyrood’s assault falls to individuals and principled campaigning organisations – sadly it’s a responsibility Liberty don’t seem all that interested in.

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