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Policing and civil liberties

EVERY justice system has to balance the security of citizens with the need to protect civil liberties.

The Scottish police must have the tools to catch criminals, but not at the cost of trampling over freedoms that work in everyone's interests.

By and large, Scotland has this balance right. We do not believe at all, as some on the fringes of political debate suggest, that Scotland is becoming a police state. That is absurd. Our responsibilities are matched by a large number of rights enshrined in law.

However, as the Sunday Herald reveals today, there ia a growing feeling that the balance is tipping away from civil liberties towards unnecessarily authoritarian policing. The Scottish Human Rights Commission, set up to make sure citizens are protected, has urged the United Nations to examine a list of concerns about high-profile police and government policies.

Many of these anxieties seem legitimate. The use of stop and search, the increase in armed police, the policy of scrapping corroboration and the law drafted to deal with sectarianism at football games have all caused alarm bells to ring.

There are legitimate fears that the police are acting without suitable oversight, and that some decisions on law and order taken in Holyrood are risky and potentially illiberal.

It is unquestionably an embarrassment for the Scottish Government for these issues to be referred to the United Nations; better some political embarrassment than a squandering of our liberal heritage, and a loss of trust in both the legal system and the police.

The SHRC deserves credit for stepping into the breach.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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