The Scottish government's justice secretary told the Gazette this morning that his administration will fiercely oppose Tory plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.

Speaking in Edinburgh at the Law Society of Scotland's flagship conference, Kenny MacAskill said he is 'deeply concerned' by the prospect of the UK being 'sidelined' along with 'the likes of Belarus' by abandoning the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It is unclear whether a British bill of rights would automatically apply north of the border, because the Human Rights Act is enshrined in the Scotland Act of 1998 which set up a devolved Scottish Parliament.

Asked by the Gazette whether the Westminster parliament could seek to repeal that part of the act and remove Scotland from the ambit of the ECHR, along with England and Wales, MacAskill said: 'The truth is we do not know.'

He added that Scotland's position on the act and the ECHR is clear and he will be reiterating Holyrood's fierce opposition to repeal to justice secretary Chris Grayling.

MacAskill replaced outgoing first minister Alex Salmond as keynote speaker at the conference, convened to discuss the future of the law in Scotland following last month's 'no' vote in the independence referendum. He told 350 Scottish solicitors: 'I heard Dominic Grieve [former attorney general] on the radio this morning and I never thought I would be applauding what he had to say. But I saw this coming when Chris Grayling once remarked to me that "we are still the ECHR - for the moment".  They have been on this trajectory for some time. We should not accept this as diktat. This is not a trajectory that a European democracy should be proceeding along in 2014.'

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