TOMORROW is International Human Rights Day. What a shame it falls so close to Home Secretary Suella Braverman endorsing a call to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The official position of the UK Government is that it wants to stay in the ECHR but to replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a British Bill of Rights.

The committee which I chair at Westminster has repeatedly advised against this, yet the Tories have persisted. We have also said the bill should not proceed without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. While the bill awaits its second reading, we are working on a comprehensive critique with recommendations and amendments.

Yet only yesterday, reports suggested Rishi Sunak may order Dominic Raab to shelve the bill so he can concentrate on legislation removing the rights of asylum seekers rather than everyone’s.

READ MORE: SNP's Westminster front bench shaken up – The REAL Scottish Politics

The problem with Raab’s bill is that while it purports to protect the same Convention rights as the HRA, it directs courts across the UK to interpret those rights far more narrowly. It will also limit the enforceability and universality of those rights by introducing a new requirement for permission to proceed with a claim and by creating categories of individuals who are exempt from some of the Convention rights or for whom damages for breach can be curtailed.

It’s also a major threat to the centrality of human rights in the devolution settlement and another stark example of the political differences between Westminster and Holyrood, where the Scottish Government is planning an expansion of human rights legislation to include socio-economic rights rather than a contraction.

The classic bills of rights were about the protection of the individual’s liberty against intrusion by the state. That was the focus of the Magna Carta in 1215, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, Scotland’s Claim of Right of the same year, the French Declaration of the Rights 1789 and the American Bill of Rights of 1791. However, in practice when translated into policy they excluded women, people of colour and members of certain religious, ethnic, socio-economic and political groups.

As the 20th century progressed, conceptions of human rights began to change. An early example of this, close to home, was the choice by the drafters of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 to address it to both Irishmen and Irish women. They went on to say that the republic would guarantee “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”.

In 1941, at the height of Second World War, in his State of the Union address to Congress, US president Franklin D Roosevelt looked forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms; freedom of speech; freedom of worship (what we would now call freedom of belief); freedom from want; and freedom from fear.

The inclusion of freedom from want and freedom from fear in this list of the four essential freedoms was a significant moment in the history of human rights protection – particularly as it came from the president of the country with the most-cited of the classical bills of rights. It redefined freedom to include not merely the absence of restraint but the absence of want and fear.

Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” were explicitly incorporated into the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948. The Declaration set out, for the first time, that fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

Women delegates played a key role in getting women’s rights included in the declaration. Along with Eleanor Roosevelt, Hansa Mehta of India is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” in Article 1 to “All human beings are born free and equal” Perhaps, Mehta, as a citizen of another country blighted by British imperialism, drew inspiration from the failed Irish rebels of 1916.

In the ECHR, all the member states of the Council of Europe signed up to the rights in the UDHR but those rights weren’t brought home until the HRA and devolution, which made it possible for people across the UK to access redress in their local courts if their human rights were breached.

Scotland’s plans to expand human rights protections extend to various international treaties on economic, social and cultural right to which the UK has signed up. However, there is no equivalent to the Human Rights Act which brings these rights en masse into UK law.

Whether and how to incorporate such treaties into domestic law is an issue fraught with political controversy. Many take the view that such economic and social rights are better left as aspirational policy goals rather that enforceable legal rights.

It is also argued that incorporating such rights in law would allow the courts to usurp the functions of the democratically elected government and Parliament and that it would lead to judicial involvement in resource allocation which is constitutionally inappropriate.

Post-apartheid South Africa’s decision to incorporate such rights in its Bill of Rights has posed considerable challenges for the ANC government.

Yet when my predecessor committee visited South Africa back in 2008, Justice Albie Sachs told them that a country which does not include social and economic rights in some form in its bill of rights is a country which has “given up on aspiration”.

I like to think Scotland is not a country which has given up on aspiration.

Last year, following on from the work of two advisory groups, the Scottish Government proposed a new Human Rights Bill in this parliamentary session aimed at incorporating some of UN treaties on socio-economic and cultural rights into the domestic law of Scotland at least in so far as devolved competences are concerned.

The bill would incorporate into Scots law the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as three UN treaties on race (CERD), women (CEDAW) and disability (CRPD). It would also include environmental rights, rights for older people, and an equality clause including provision for LGBTI people.

It’s good to see women’s rights playing such a prominent role in the Scottish Government’s plans. Women’s rights are human rights and they deserve to be given the same weight as the rights of other groups.

In evidence to Holyrood this week, the Scottish Human Rights Commission reminded us all that there is no hierarchy of human rights. That is true, although some rights, such as the right to life and the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, are absolute and cannot be qualified. Other rights such as the right to a private and family life are not absolute and can be qualified where necessary in a democratic society.

Sometimes the rights of one group may conflict with those of another and in that situation a compromise must be reached which respects everyone’s rights. I hope that as MSPs vote on the Gender Recognition Reform Act before Christmas, they remember this.