The National:

JUST how serious is Boris Johnson about opting out of parts of European human rights law? Could it be another ruse from Dominic Cummings to distract public attention from the fact Number 10 has presided over the world's worst response to the Covid-19 pandemic?

The only winners to date appear to be government cronies who've hoovered up untendered and unpublished contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds for personal protection equipment.

Perhaps it's a new poker bluff in the UK Government's incompetent Brexit negotiations with the European Union (EU)? A follow up to Johnson's Internal Market Bill which proposes to break international law by unilaterally re-writing the EU Withdrawal Agreement and ripping up devolution settlements and the Good Friday Agreement.

The first thing to remember is that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has got nothing to do with the EU. It's an international human rights treaty between the 47 member states of the Council of Europe - an entirely separate international entity from the EU.

READ MORE: Brexit: Expert warns Scottish NHS could be sold off in Tory power grab

The need for the ECHR was first proposed while the Second World War was raging across Europe. The premise was simple. Never again would we allow people's rights to be dehumanised and abused with impunity. The UK was the first state to ratify the ECHR in March 1951.

At the Congress of Europe in 1948, delegates gathered to agree on the particular human rights to be protected, drawing from the United Nation's Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

At the meeting of Congress, Winston Churchill said: "In the centre of our movement stands the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law." And so, the ECHR was born.

Neither Boris Johnson's Government nor the UK Parliament has the power to opt-out of parts of the ECHR: we have ratified the convention as a human rights treaty. You either sign up to it, or you don't.

If you have no shame, who cares what the European Court of Human Rights rules?

You cannot pick and choose which parts you want to be bound by as a state. However, the UK Parliament could repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA), in whole or in part.

The effect of this would be that an individual or legal person (such as a partnership or company) could no longer directly rely upon, and enforce, the ECHR in a court of law within Scotland or the UK. They would lose the possibility of an instant and powerful remedy to stop something bad happening to them.

Gone would be your locally enforceable remedy against the opponent breaching your human rights. If the HRA was watered down people could only enforce their rights before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) - in effect some years after the fact, with a clunky remedy against the UK as a contracting state.

The effect of repealing parts of the HRA would be devastating to the people for whom it represented the last hope for justice.

In many cases the difference between destitution or humanity, life or death. Number 10 is reported to want to opt-out of those human rights that "prevent" the UK from deporting asylum seekers whose claims have been refused.

READ MORE: Edinburgh University 'cancels' David Hume after Black Lives Matter protests

Yet consider this: a court in the UK could only prevent the deportation of an asylum seeker where it was satisfied on the evidence that it was not lawful to do so. A deportation order that would breach the UK's obligations under the ECHR would not be lawful - for example you would be liable to execution, torture, degrading or inhumane treatment upon return to a home country.

Why would the UK Government want to remove human rights from the HRA? In my opinion the answer is simple.

If human rights are removed from the HRA, the UK Government know that they can do as they please and ignore human rights.

Yes, they could be subject to a challenge before the ECtHR, but that would be years down the line with the threat of a monetary payment for "just satisfaction". If you have no shame, who cares what the ECtHR rules?

In my view any repeal in whole or part of the HRA would signal a pernicious intent to break European human rights law in practice. It would ultimately transform the UK into a pariah state.

The HRA has brought so many vital benefits to people across Scotland and the UK. It has stopped elderly couples from being separated and placed in different residential care homes; secured homes for survivors of domestic violence; challenged the discrimination of people who are homeless, disabled or LGBT; prevented degrading practices in psychiatric hospitals and prisons; and so much more.

We cannot afford to lose the protection of the HRA. Without it who will safeguard our human rights?

Mike Dailly is principal solicitor and solicitor advocate at Glasgow's Govan Law Centre and Govanhill Law Centre