MSPs are set to refuse consent for the UK Government’s controversial spy cops Bill today in a fresh constitutional clash with Westminster.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has recommended Holyrood reject the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (criminal Conduct) Bill because of concerns over civil liberties.
He said the law “contains insufficient independent oversight and satisfactory safeguards”.
The Bill would grant wide-ranging legal rights to undercover agents to commit crimes in the course of their work, in the UK as well as overseas.
It would create a new class of permission called a Criminal Conduct Authorisation (CCA), which could be used by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government.
CCAs make specific conduct “lawful for all purposes” and protect the person doing it from any liability.
The conduct must be deemed necessary and proportionate, bu there is no limit on the offence it could cover, so that criminals could not devise tests to uncover any moles.
Under the Sewel convention, Westminster will not “normally” legislate in devolved areas without Holyrood’s consent, but can ultimately impose the legislation on Scotland regardless.
In recent years, this has happened in relation to Brexit legislation, but not justice Bills.
The Scottish Greens said the “appalling” legislation would grant police, intelligence services and public authorities “the power to commit criminal offenses and human rights abuses”.
MSP John Finnie said: “This appalling piece of legislation would grant the perpetrators of crimes immunity from prosecution if their actions were authorised. It essentially hands intelligence agents, police officers and public officials a license to commit crimes, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t face any consequences for their actions.
“Undercover operations should be governed by a robust ethical framework with respect for human rights at its core. This Bill cuts across all the norms of justice and the rule of law and should be rejected in its entirety.”