IT may be hard to believe a word that Dominic Cummings says, but his interview with Laura Kuenssberg certainly re-inforced the impression of arrogance, corruption and incompetence oozing from Boris Johnson’s government. Its handling of the Covid crisis and “one rule for us, another for the rest of you” typifies its approach. Yet even as the pandemic rages on, unlike others, the Tories have been very busy with the rest of their agenda.

This week, the second reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill proceeded with some particularly intemperate speeches about refugees and asylum seekers from Tory MPs and a bonfire of international conventions and treaties to which previous British governments have committed us.

Priti Patel and Co want us to believe the UK is “overrun by migrants” but there’s no evidence this is so. Yes, the dangerous Channel crossings undertaken by what one Tory MP described as “innocent and vulnerable” people are a problem but the answer to that problem cannot be to criminalise the innocent and vulnerable.

The eminent English judge Lord Bingham wrote a book about the rule of law as the foundation of the modern democratic state. He identified eight core principles of the rule of law. Principle 5 states: “The law must afford adequate protection of human rights.” Principle 8 stipulates: “The state must comply with its obligations in international law as in national law.”

These principles are widely revered and have gained international respect, yet barely a week goes by without this British Government introducing a bill that threatens to breach one or both.

If the Nationality and Borders Bill becomes law, we risk breaching the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at sea, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We also risk breaching multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). When England’s Lord Chancellor gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights last week, he was most anxious to assure us that the Government is still committed to the ECHR. But there is not much point in being committed to it in name if they bring legislation to the House that threatens to breach its terms. The Nationality and Borders Bill does this with the introduction of a two-tier system for refugees, which flies in the face of the right to be free from discrimination in the enjoyment of one’s human rights.

The changes proposed by the bill also undermine the right to life for those at sea with outrageous measures which could criminalise those who seek to rescue asylum seekers who get into difficulty on the water. Changes to the application and appeals process for asylum seekers and provisions regarding credibility, and the weight to be given to evidence, risk breaching the right to a fair trial.

READ MORE: Tories left red-faced as majority oppose their asylum reforms

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has already raised concerns that decision-making by the Home Office in immigration matters is not sufficiently independent or rigorous to ensure that human rights are respected, and the bill will make that worse.

Why would Scotland want to be part of a Union where decisions like this affecting our international standing are forced through by a government with such scant regard for human rights and the rule of law?

This bill is the latest in a succession of bills which threaten to breach our international treaty obligations and the ECHR including the Overseas Operations Bill and the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill. In the case of the Internal Market Bill, the Government were quite brazen about it.

THE Northern Ireland Secretary stood up in the House and said that “this does break international law” but only “in a very specific and limited way.” He was at it again on Wednesday, proposing to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol that his government agreed to less than two years ago.

The Nationality and Borders Bill will break international law, not in a specific and limited way, but in numerous ways. It is immoral, inhumane and irresponsible. There are millions of displaced people across the world and millions of refugees. The United Kingdom cannot wash our hands of responsibility for them, particularly when at least some of the reasons for their displacement can be laid at our door and at the door of our foreign policy and our colonial past.

The real mischief that the bill should seek to tackle, but does not, is that there are insufficient lawful routes for claiming asylum in the United Kingdom. Yes, resettlement programmes are laudable, but they are not a solution for those claiming asylum, because resettlement programmes deal with refugees in the immediate vicinity of the homes they have fled and who are already recognised as having a protection need. Those not already identified as in need of international protection and who reach the shores of the United Kingdom on their own steam should not be criminalised.

It is time that the Home Secretary stopped playing to the gallery and did the hard work necessary to fulfil the United Kingdom’s moral and legal obligations to refugees and asylum seekers.

READ MORE: Why Priti Patel’s reaction to a manufactured crisis is proving to be so costly

As my fellow SNP MP Stuart McDonald argued very eloquently, there is no point in Conservative MPs waxing lyrical about the rights of persecuted Christians and the rights of the Uyghurs to be free from Chinese atrocities if they threaten to criminalise those sorts of people when they make it to our shores.

I fear the chances of this Government amending the bill in any meaningful way are absolutely zero, but I know that it matters very much to my constituents, and people and organisations across Scotland (the Trades Union Congress in Edinburgh passed a motion condemning this bill just in the last few days) – that the Scottish National Party stands against the bill. It is important to have voices setting out with clarity and detail what is wrong with the bill and Stuart McDonald, the SNP spokesperson, was by far the best speaker in the Commons debate.

But as is usually the case our efforts at Westminster are doomed to fail and we can only to look forward to a future where an independent Scotland will be able to set a better example on refugee policy.

It is all very well to say Scotland welcomes refugees but at present we don’t have control over the areas of policy that would enable us to take a different approach from the UK Government when refugees seek asylum. Until we take the steps to ensure we do have control over that aspect of policy, we are stuck with trying to take the British Government to task on their policies.

Naming what is wrong is one thing. The real challenge is to bring Scotland closer to being able to frame its own approach on these policies and others.