HUMAN rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti yesterday praised Nicola Sturgeon’s passionate defence of human rights, calling it an “incredibly important intervention”.

Chakrabarti, who heads civil liberties campaign group Liberty, was in Glasgow to introduce the First Minister’s vow to prevent David Cameron scrapping the Human Rights Act.

In a landmark speech, Sturgeon also ruled out any kind of deal which would protect rights in Scotland while “diluting” them in the rest of the UK and pledged to work with “anyone and everyone” to stop the Tories making a “monumental mistake”.

Following the address, Chakrabarti said: “I have waited for a long time for a senior politician in power to make a speech like that.”

She said: “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.”

Replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights was a key Tory election pledge.

Proposals will not be published until the autumn and yesterday Sturgeon said the change would cause unnecessary costs, confusion and inconvenience while diminishing the UK’s reputation overseas, damaging relations with devolved governments and impacting on the welfare of people in the UK.

Stating that the Scottish Parliament could have “great influence” over the matter, Sturgeon said: “The Human Rights Act is reserved legislation. Responsibility for it rests with Westminster.

“But as most of you know, Convention Rights are embedded into the devolution settlement. And human rights itself is actually a devolved issue.

“That means any attempt to amend the Human Rights Act is likely, in our view, to require the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“And it is inconceivable – in my opinion, given the breadth of support which the Human Rights Act commands across the Scottish Parliament – that such consent would be granted. And let me make clear absolutely today that the Scottish Government will advocate that it is not granted by the Scottish Parliament.”

Speaking at the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow, Sturgeon said the current laws should be the “minimum standards for civilised societies” and argued changing the law would force UK citizens to pursue human rights claims abroad instead of at home.

Calling the Convention the “finest achievement of post-war Europe”, she said: “The Human Rights Act actually exists for a reason. It is a sensible way of ensuring that Convention rights – rights that the UK did so much to define – can be taken into account by UK courts.

“It is a proportionate, pragmatic and progressive piece of legislation. And its value is greatest for those who are most marginalised from society and most in need of protection.

“That point becomes especially clear when you look at the key rights protected by the European Convention and the Act.

“They include – and this is not a full list, but it is a representative one – the right to life. The right not to be tortured. The right not to be enslaved. The right to liberty and the security of the person. The right to a fair trial. The right to marry. The right not to be discriminated against. The right of fair access to education. The right to free elections.

“These rights matter to all of us. They should be founding principles of any civilised society.”

However, Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would have to review its position on votes for prisoners to oppose the Tory plans.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a blanket ban on votes for convicted prisoners breaches their rights and yesterday Sturgeon said the issue of rights was not supposed to be “convenient” for governments.

She said: “We haven’t got any proposals to put forward at this stage but that is something that we will continue to consider.

“Clearly it’s incumbent on all governments not just to talk the language of human rights.”

Labour’s Drew Smith indicated his party would work with the SNP administration on the issue, saying: “Some issues are bigger than party politics and the Human Rights Act is one of them.

“Scottish Labour believes every person has universal rights and freedoms and we will oppose any ideological attempts to water those rights down.”

However, UK Human Rights Minister Dominic Raab hit back at the Scottish Government, saying: “A Bill of Rights will restore some common sense to our human rights laws.

“We will be consulting widely, including with the Scottish Government, and hope that they will engage seriously on the substance of the issue instead of baseless scaremongering.”

John Beattie: The Human Rights Act is a foundation of society, so what kind of government would scrap it?

The National View, September 24: Why keeping the Human Rights Act is vital to all the UK

Letters to The National, September 24: 56 MPs are fighting for our human rights