Though it won’t have been noticed by many folk outside Scotland, this topic keeps coming up in conversation with family, friends and neighbours. The course of the conversation on each occasion runs counter to the considered, expert opinions being expressed both in mainstream media and in The Scottish Parliament.
The assumption in all the published attacks on Alex Salmond is that in being subordinate to European Law, Scots Law is also inferior. This is simply not logically consistent. All laws are made by people for people and as such can be flawed: this is why parliaments constantly revise the laws serving the people they represent. As Alex Salmond argued in his attack on what is assumed to be Prof Kelly’s support for the murderer’s ‘rights’, the correct place to repair the law is in parliament and not in a court that has no constitutional basis for making such ruling (it doesn’t and more importantly, never will: read article XIX of The Acts of Union 1707). If it is OK for David Cameron and The Conservatives to attack European Human Rights’ legislation as it is applied in England, why is it now not OK for Scottish politicians to do the same? Is this the same Unionist principle that allows Nick Clegg to support constitutional change for the Falkland Islands but not for Scotland?
Further, why is it the case that a criminal in Scotland can appeal their case directly to the ‘Supreme Court’ but criminals in England and Wales must be first given this right through their courts of appeal? Why can Lord Hope’s professional competence not be challenged when he himself admitted last year that he foresaw no problems with the UK Supreme Court challenging decisions made in Scottish courts? Why are English ministers and Scottish judges so furious that The First Minister is abiding by his legally-appointed duties of defending the Scottish legal system (and challenging their competency) when it is written not only into the terms of devolution but in the reconstituting of the limitation on powers on The Scotland Office? Is it that senior representatives of the legal system like Lord Falconer (speaking on Newsnight tonight) are so used to working for politicians like Tony Blair that they are unused to being asked to do things other than fabricate causes for illegal wars?
Alex Salmond is now being threatened with having to defend himself in an English court and with this, we perhaps get a glimpse of The First Minister’s long-term game plan: an un-elected English lawyer is going to be putting Scotland’s most senior elected representative in the dock as a defendent in an English court.
Never mind that Prof Kelly’s work may be commendable from a professional point of view (and he is an acknowledged expert in European human rights law), winning compensation for prisoners who have to ‘slop out‘ cannot be claimed to be gainful employment when we balance this against the misery that afflicts the victims of crime. Prof Kelly may never have come to the attention of many Scots before now and pretty soon, many unionists will wish not only that he had remained unknown but that they had never imposed the rulings of an illegal court on our legal system. As Prof Kelly may well have tutored his students, the purpose of the law is to serve the people. Alex Salmond has clearly remembered this which is why all the conversations I’ve been part of – and overheard – have been full of nothing but support for The First Minister.
Lord Hope, as Mr Salmond, pointed out may know a little about politics but clearly not enough. Unionists should beware and tread softly because they are treading on what exists to serve us all. In their poorly-shod efforts to head-off support for a referendum on independence with repeated personal attacks on pro-independence politicians arguing vehemently – if a little hot-headedly – for respect for our legal system and the victims of crime, they tread on our identity and you never can tell how a people will react to the tread of their jackboots. It might be more than a so-called ‘Supreme Court’ that is shaken off…