Investigatory Powers Bill utterly at odds with right to privacy

The Greens’ justice spokesperson MSP John Finnie has warned the UK Government that the Scottish Parliament cannot consent to the Investigatory Powers Bill unless it is compatible with human rights, including the right to privacy.

The Investigatory Powers Bill would give powers to government agencies to conduct blanket surveillance, collecting personal data - such as emails, internet histories and phone records – on millions of people who are not under any suspicion of a crime.

The Highlands and Islands MSP said the Greens oppose the “draconian” proposals, and expressed his disappointment that the Bill passed its final vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday 7 June, with support from Conservative and Labour MPs including Scotland’s Ian Murray and David Mundell. The Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru and SDLP MPs voted against the Bill, which now moves on to the House of Lords.

In a Scottish Parliament motion, he warned that these powers could breach the right to respect for private and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), leaving the MSPs with no choice but to withhold permission for the parts of the Bill that affect devolved responsibilities such as policing.

The UK Parliament does not legislate with regard to devolved matters without the approval of the Scottish Parliament, which is given by means of a “legislative consent motion”, put forward by the Scottish Government and approved by MSPs.

Under the 1998 Scotland Act that created the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood cannot take any action, including making a legislative consent motion, that conflicts with the ECHR.

Mr Finnie said:

“It’s a matter of pride for Scotland that human rights are absolutely at the centre of our constitution. Neither the Scottish Parliament nor the Scottish Government can do anything that is incompatible with the rights laid out in the ECHR.

“The draconian Investigatory Powers Bill appears to be utterly at odds with the right to privacy, giving government agencies the power to carry out bulk electronic surveillance on millions of people at once, without even suspecting them of a crime.

“The powers in the Bill include being able to read your emails, search your internet history, view your phone records and track your location, all on the say-so of a UK minister with no independent judicial approval.

“It is very disappointing that this frightening law has received the support of not only the UK Government but also the Labour Party. I am grateful to the Green, SNP, Plaid and SDLP MPs who voted against.

“The Scottish Parliament will soon be asked to consent to this Bill legislating on our devolved responsibilities, like policing. If at that time the Bill is still incompatible with our human rights, Holyrood will have no choice but to say no.”