Information

Extending COVID 19 restrictions: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002


Information requested

1. Can you please tell me why you are extending [Covid] restrictions when countries such as Denmark and Norway are ending theirs?

2. We must go back to the old normal and have no diminution of our rights. Hence, will the Scottish Government make representations to the UK government over the proposed Bill of Rights Act to ensure freedom of speech for Scots who preach the Gospel on the streets of Scotland?

3. Can you please make further representations regarding the Act so that it would not be illegal to preach, quote or say anything that directly quotes or references what is written in a Christian Bible such as the King James Version?

Response

Covid Restrictions

Our latest Strategic Framework Update sets out a measured and evidence-based approach which is specifically designed to address the level of risk currently being experienced in Scotland. In particular, our assessment is that, in Scotland, the pandemic is not over and the virus remains unpredictable. Different jurisdictions are likely to reach different conclusions based on analysis of their particular circumstances.

We believe that Covid continues to present a threat to public health in Scotland and we are therefore taking a different approach to that seen in other countries, such as Denmark, where the current level of risk has been assessed as having reduced. We have, however, been clear that we will keep all domestic public health measures under review and will not keep restrictive measures in place longer than is absolutely necessary. On Monday 28th February, domestic certification requirements were moved from regulation into guidance in Scotland. This will mean our approach is less stringent than in other European countries, for example France, where a vaccine pass is still required for participation in many social and cultural activities.

We are confident that the approach taken in Scotland will enable us to move away, decisively and hopefully sustainably, from legal restrictions to manage the virus, and rely instead on sensible behaviours, adaptations and mitigations. This is a sensible and evidence-based approach that is right for Scotland as we enter this next phase of the pandemic.

UK Government consultation on a “modern Bill of Rights”


On 8th March 2022, the Scottish Government published a response to the UK Government’s consultation on its proposals for a “modern Bill of Rights”. In responding to the consultation, the Scottish Government made clear that it disagrees, as a matter of fundamental principle, with the proposition that the Human Rights Act should be replaced by a “modern Bill of Rights”.

You can read the Scottish Government’s full response to the consultation here.

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion


The Human Rights Act 1998 is one of the most important and successful pieces of legislation ever passed by the UK Parliament. It has a 20-year track record of delivering justice, including for some of the most vulnerable people in society, and it plays a critically important role in protecting human rights such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion, together with freedom of expression.

It is important to be clear that the right to hold beliefs (whether religious, political or of some other kind) is absolute and unconditional. This is a right with which the State cannot and must not seek to interfere. It includes the right to change one’s religion or belief without suffering legal sanction or discrimination. The right to manifest or express those beliefs is, however, a qualified one and needs to take appropriate account of factors such as public order, public safety, public health or morals and the rights and freedoms of others. The Human Rights Act explicitly protects the right to manifest one’s religion (including in the form of worship, teaching, practice and observance) subject only to such legal limitations as are necessary in a democratic society for the reasons noted above. It is therefore not illegal to preach or quote from the Bible, provided of course that this is done in a way that respects the beliefs and other human rights of other members of society and does not contravene the law.

The Scottish Government strongly supports the existing safeguards for freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly which are an integral part of the European Convention on Human Rights and are given legal effect by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Scottish Government believes that changes to the law as it currently stands are neither necessary nor desirable.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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