SCOTLAND'S human rights record is good by international standards, but a black spot is threatening to tarnish the country's reputation.

In common with police forces in England and Wales, Police Scotland's officers have powers, laid down in statute, to stop and search individuals if they are suspected of carrying illicit items.

It is a vital crime-fighting tool that has taken drugs, guns and knives off our streets.

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However, unlike other parts of the UK, police officers north of the border carry out stop searches even if there is no reasonable suspicion.

These searches have no basis in law and are supposedly based on consent, despite it being highly questionable whether individuals feel able to refuse an officer's request.

In the first year of the single force, nearly 70% of the 600,000 or so searches were non-statutory - without suspicion.

Such powers were scrapped in England and Wales, but it bafflingly persists in Scotland.

Professor Alan Miller, the chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, is correct to sound the alarm on this worrying practice.

He fears these 'suspicionless' searches may breach Article 8 of the Human Rights convention, which was incorporated into Scots law, and could be defeated in court.

He believes Parliament should establish a clear legislative framework for searches and call time on so-called "consensual" frisks.

Officers must be able to search suspects, but the powers to do so should be set by Parliament and not allowed to grow by stealth at the choosing of the police.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will soon lodge amendments banning non-statutory searches, a move the Scottish Government would be well-advised to support.

Failure to do so could result in the courts throwing a curve ball into the country's already fragile justice system.