Everyone in Scotland has human rights, and more people need to know that. As we celebrate International Human Rights Day on 10th December 2014, let us agree to spread the word to colleagues, service users, organisations we work with and to family and friends.
The United Nations’ chosen slogan for this year is” Human Rights 365” to promote the vision that every day is Human Rights Day. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on “States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account.”
In our everyday lives human rights bring to life values that matter most to us such as equality and justice. Respect for human rights can benefit people, families and communities. The impact of human rights can make our communities a fairer place to live and work.
The Human Rights Consortium Scotland (HRCS) encourages people to share our view that human rights belong to us all equally, there when we need them as a genuine safety net: when we are feeling vulnerable in our homes and work places or in a care home; when we are angry about an invasion of our privacy; when we want to peacefully enjoy our possessions. Human rights are a set of minimum standards which reflect our national values of fairness, respect and dignity.
The HRCS – Agenda for Change
Too few people know about human rights, too few people feel confident to assert their human rights and too few public bodies understand their legal duties to respect, promote and protect our human rights. Something needs to change or the costs will be irreversible – in human and/or financial terms.
66 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 64 years after the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, 16 years after the passing of the Human Rights Act and 8 years after MSPs approving the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act, it is now time for Scotland to focus on action, ensure human rights have a positive impact on people and that public authorities understand the benefits which these standards and laws bring. The HRCS has identified a number of actions which our Government and the public sector can take up as well as the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland (EHRC):
- Access to Justice
Arguably there is an unequal enjoyment of human rights in the UK. Although the EHRC can take up individual human rights cases in England and Wales the SHRC is specifically prohibited from taking individual cases. Whilst we do not expect there will be a lot of cases, the SHRC could fund and progress ‘test’ cases which could improve public service practice for us all.
Ask: The HRCS is campaigning for a change in the law so that the SHRC can take up cases eg advising people what to do when something goes wrong. This would require MSPs to pass an amendment to the Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights Act 2006.
- Set up a Designated Human Rights Committee at the Scottish Parliament
Unlike the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament has declined to set up a dedicated Human Rights Committee. Human Rights, it is argued, are an integral part of the business of each Committee but a study published by Glasgow University concluded that there was room for improvement after studying the work of all parliamentary Committees in November 2011:
Although we are limited by the terms of reference to a single calendar month, the evidence for the period reveals a widespread disregard of the normative and institutional framework for conceptualizing and analysing human rights issues. Although there is no evidence to suggest that this is deliberate, most Committees did not seize the opportunity to imbue human rights in their respective field of activities.
Ask: MSPs should vote to set up a Human Rights Committee at the Scottish Parliament so that there is a thorough examination of the human rights implications of each Bill, budget inquiry, petition and business item.
3. Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights (SNAP)
We welcome the establishment of the Leadership Panel which the SHRC has set up to co-ordinate the delivery of SNAP. However as the duty bearers are the State and its various agents, it would be even more effective if more than 6 out of the 27 members were duty bearers. We understand and support the desire of civil society to be involved and feel this would be enhanced by the State playing its full role, being fully represented and leading by example.
Ask: The SHRC should revise membership of the Leadership Panel and increase significantly the proportion of State bodies who serve on it.
 Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006 Section 6
 ‘Scottish Parliament Committees’ Perspective on Human Rights – A Glasgow Human Rights Network Report for the Cross-Party Group on Human Rights’ pub April 2012 Page 20
 Three of the members are our national human rights bodies: SHRC, EHRC and SCCYP.