Universal Periodic Review 2022: Scottish Government Position Statement

This position statement sets out the action we've taken in devolved areas since 2017 to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of everyone in Scotland.

13. Counterterrorism and Defence

Peace, security, and the rule of law are essential for the full enjoyment of human rights. The United Nations acknowledges that terrorism is an act “aimed at the destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democracy”[517] and the Scottish Government unequivocally condemns the methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms. The Scottish Government firmly believes that the UK’s counter-terrorism and defence measures must comply with the UK’s obligations under international law and remains committed to maintaining full compliance with the UK’s human rights obligations as an essential feature of the rules-based international order.

A) Counterterrorism

The Scottish Government takes a full and active role in the development and delivery of the UK’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism[518] (“CONTEST”) and works with Scotland’s emergency responder services – including law enforcement – and other bodies to ensure they have all the tools they need to effectively tackle terrorism. The Scottish Government works with the UK Government to ensure that any new proposals fit with Scotland’s separate and distinct legal system, respect the current devolution arrangements, and are taken in the context of proper engagement and consultation with the public bodies in Scotland who would be affected by them. The Scottish Government also works closely with affected communities across Scotland to offer assurances and commitment to their security, and Police Scotland is also in contact with community representatives.

B) Prevent

Prevent is part of the UK-wide counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST but is delivered in Scotland through devolved functions. While aspects of how we deliver Prevent are tailored to the Scottish context, we work to the same overall strategic objectives as the rest of the UK and benefit from our relationships with UK-wide partners. A good example of this is the 2021 publication of the Prevent Multi-Agency Panel Guidance for Scotland[519], in which we adapted Channel guidance that had for several years applied to multi-agency Prevent work in England and Wales, and worked with the Home Office to produce new statutory guidance for Scotland.

The Prevent strategy in Scotland has been intentionally aligned with existing safeguarding procedures to ensure the wellbeing of individuals and delivery that is proportionate and tailored to the needs of Scottish communities. Our approach is consistent with the findings of the Christie Commission Report on Reform of Scotland’s Public Services[520], which encourage a focus on early intervention and prevention programmes.

Partners continue to work closely with Scottish Government and alongside communities to address existing and emerging challenges across the broad spectrum of threat. This helps ensure a shared focus on building cohesive communities where people feel empowered, included and safe. The approach places emphasis on preventing people from becoming alienated or isolated, which in turn reduces vulnerability and increases resilience to divisive extremist narratives.

C) Stop and Search

The Stop and Search Code of Practice[521] came into effect in May 2017. It sets out the circumstances in which a search may be carried out, the procedures to be followed, the record to be kept and the right of someone to receive a copy of that record. The Code of Practice is clear that an individual cannot be stopped and searched because of their age, sex, ethnic background, or religion.

Since the Stop and Search Code of Practice came into effect, Police Scotland have been required to publish data on the use of stop and search on a yearly basis detailing how many searches are carried out, how many persons are searched on two or more occasions, and the age, gender, and ethnic and national origins of the person searched.

The Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search conducted two reviews of the Stop and Search Code of Practice following its publication – a six-month review published in February 2018[522] and a 12-month review published in June 2019[523]. These reports found that few issues were raised around ethnicity and the vast majority of searches and seizures in Scotland involve people who self-define as belonging to a white ethnic group.

D) Prohibition of Torture in Military Settings

In March 2020, the UK Government introduced the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill[524] to the UK Parliament. At that time, the Scottish Government had a number of serious concerns in relation to the human rights implications of the Bill, both in terms of substantive rights and the potential of the Bill to undermine respect for and adherence to international human rights law. In particular, the Bill enabled the UK Government to consider derogating from the ECHR for significant overseas operations in the future.

The Bill received Royal Assent in April 2021. Two key changes were made that addressed the concerns highlighted by the Scottish Government:

  • amending the presumption against prosecution to exclude war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture;
  • removing the requirement for the UK Government to consider derogating from the ECHR ahead of military operations abroad.

The Scottish Government’s position on prohibition of torture, including in a military context, remains clear. We are strongly committed to Article 3 of the ECHR and to maintaining full compliance with the UK’s international obligations. No derogation from Article 3 is permitted by the ECHR and nor should such action ever be contemplated by a State that upholds and values human rights.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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