Human rights more robust than rights of citizens
Monday, 2 July 2012
More than 10 per cent of people living in Scotland still believe that you have to be white to be Scottish, a leading racial equality campaigner highlighted this week.
During a debate on the links between citizenship and human rights, Jatin Haria, director of the Coalition for Racial Equality, said he is more comfortable relying on his human rights than on his citizen rights.
Haria referred to figures released in April this year by think tank British Futures which revealed that nearly three-quarters of Scots said that it is important to be born in Scotland to be considered Scottish and 13 per cent said it was important to be white.
“In my view human rights relate to individuals,” said Haria. “They are more universal, more moral. Whereas citizenship rights are political rights confirmed by national states. In that aspect they are dynamic and change all the time. It wasn’t that long ago that women were given the right to vote, for example.”
In that light, he said that the Scottish Government should be careful in how it defines Scottish citizenship if it wants to create an inclusive country, using as an example the focus on bringing people back to Scotland as part of the 2009 Homecoming celebrations.
“Most Scottish people share the vision of Scotland as multi-cultural, diverse, inclusive and even tolerant,” said Haria. “But there is a potential for that more ethnacised Scottish nationalism to emerge – 13 per cent think you have to be white. So from a personal point of view, I would be more happy to rely on human rights protections for myself than my citizenship protections.”
The debate was part of a series of outreach events promoting Glasgow Caledonian University’s Masters on Citizenship and Human Rights, which is being run in partnership with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Shabnum Mustapha, Amnesty International programme director for Scotland, also highlighted that national laws can restrict people’s human rights. She said that not all citizens of Scotland are able to access their full rights, highlighting in particular Gypsy Travellers.
David Cameron, director of Community Land Scotland, also discussed whether community land ownership is a human right.
The GCU/SCVO Masters in Citizenship and Human Rights is a work-based academic course starting on 13 August.