The doors to Scotland’s jails could be flung open by a Supreme Court human rights ruling, Tory leader Annabel Goldie has warned MSPs."Allowing" suspects immediate legal representation "may throw the doors of Scotland’s jails open", a whiff of Daily Mail populist scare-mongering there; my understanding is that even in the worst case scenario, those presently imprisoned may be able to press for retrials, not immediate and/or automatic release.
She clashed with Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions over the implications of a looming human rights ruling in London on the Scots practice of denying suspects legal representation in the six hours during which they can be held before formal arrest.
The more interesting implication however from Goldie is the fear of a UK Supreme Court ruling taking precedence over those of the fiercely independent Scottish legal system. The fact is that it does do so in civil but not criminal cases but even so, it's a curious argument for a Unionist to take in that she’s basically arguing for a consolidation of Scottish separatism here.
“Salmond insisted that because a full bench of seven Scottish appeal judges had ruled that our system was compliant under the European Convention on Human Rights it would be wrong to jump the gun on the issue. He said: "I think it would be unwise to plan wholesale changes which would be necessary to the Scottish legal system when judges unanimously supported the position that our legal system is compliant with convention."In other words, “We should be OK... I think”. The fact that there is even an element of doubt (as there must be when there are "contingencies in place for all eventualities") is disturbing. With so much at stake, there should be a 0% element of doubt. Also, it’s worth mentioning that someone who would define himself as a social liberal is not arguing with Goldie on the fundamental human rights issue at stake here (ie the right of any suspect to have legal representation) but on whether the SNP administration is "prepared for all eventualities".
"And equally it’s sensible to have contingencies in place for all eventualities, such as the operational guidance and advice that was issued by the Lord Advocate last week."
The other final point is that the title UK Supreme Court is a misnomer; in such cases as we are dealing with here, it is quite evidently the European Court of Human Rights which has the final ruling.