Fairer Scotland

Protecting and promoting human rights

November 26, 2020 by No Comments | Category Equality, Welfare and Social Security

Scotland is a modern, inclusive nation which is committed to protect, respect and realise internationally recognised human rights and equality. This is at the heart of everything we are doing in the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership. We have been talking to a wide variety of stakeholders from grassroots organisations and community projects to larger public sector employers like COSLA to ask them what vision they have for human rights legislation.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville

As we shortly mark International Human Rights Day, we thought it was a good time to update the Committee on the progress of the work of the Taskforce. COVID-19 has impacted some of the work however, good progress has been made and we are entering another busy round of engagement.

As part of progressing the recommendations set out in the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights to create a human rights framework for Scotland, and the Programme for Government 2020, the Taskforce is considering how best to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (UNCEDAW) into domestic legislation as part of a broader aim to incorporate internationally recognised human rights.

The Taskforce is also actively considering the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD).

We recognise how important it is to bring people with us on this journey and have been working closely with stakeholders across a wide variety of sectors. The Taskforce has completed around thirty virtual engagements with individuals and organisations and also with a wide range of representatives from the public sector, civil society, and other human rights experts including senior UN representatives.

It has been clear from our first round of engagements that we should, as a priority, seek to ensure that implementation is meaningful, and give realistic legal and practical effect to human rights for rights-holders, as well as to obligation and duty holders.

With these initial findings in mind, the Taskforce has now begun a second round of engagement to be completed by early 2021. We will focus on exploring specific questions and topics in more detail with the intent of gathering more intelligence to inform our final recommendations. Part of this work will include gathering views from groups of rights holders who would be affected by the incorporation of UNCEDAW, UNCERD, UNCRPD, as well as economic, social, environmental and cultural rights. We have also established reference groups of representatives from these rights holder groups who will provide expert advice.

In addition, we will meet with a range of groups representing the rights and lived experiences of women, older people, disabled people, LGBTI+ people, and people in minority ethnic groups.

These groups complement existing reference groups already established that bring representatives from civil society and public authorities into this work to offer expertise on the role of duty bearers. We have also established an Executive Board that will offer insight of senior leaders to help inform our work. This group will ensure that our vision for a strengthened Scottish human rights framework is understood and supported at both operational and strategic levels in the organisations at the forefront of delivering it.

Our early conclusions from the first round of engagement is that there is strong breadth of support for the Taskforce process and the ambition of a new human rights framework. There is wide recognition that Brexit and COVID-19 demonstrate the need for a strengthened national framework to protect and promote human rights and improve peoples’ everyday lives. This will feed into and complement the Scottish Government’s ambitions, stated in the Programme for Government, to mainstream equality and human rights in a way that is underpinned by evidence and lived experience, and aligned with Scotland’s National Performance Framework.

To support this work, the Scottish Government has awarded a grant to the Human Rights Consortium Scotland (HRCS) to carry out additional engagement with groups of rights holders on behalf of the Taskforce. We recognise the intrinsic value of all people and that we are a society founded on fairness, dignity, equality and respect. HRCS will focus on gathering views from people who traditionally face barriers to having their views heard. They will provide specific training and materials to organisations working directly with individuals in these rights holder groups. HRCS is working closely with the Scottish Human Rights Commission to carry out this work.

Our Academic Advisory Panel of experts have also been instrumental in contributing detailed analytical information and advice. Their work has been vital to support the Taskforce to better identify challenges and opportunities to incorporation as we begin to form our recommendations.

It remains vital that we take the time to get this right, so we will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on our work.


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