A new joint report from the Human Rights Consortium Scotland and Amnesty International has found that most public authorities cannot provide evidence of human rights-based decision-making in their response to COVID-19.
Last year, the Consortium and Amnesty in Scotland commissioned a survey of public authorities, using Freedom of Information requests to determine the extent to which they took human rights into account when making decisions about how to respond to COVID-19. There were significant cuts to vital services between March and September 2020 which had negative impacts on people’s human rights and quality of life – the survey demonstrates that public authorities largely did not consider human rights when making these decisions.
The survey covered 48 public authorities; all 32 local authorities, all 14 Scottish health boards, Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service. While there were some exceptions, the survey results found that the majority of public authorities were not able to provide evidence of monitoring or reporting processes relevant to their duties under the Human Rights Act (1998). Furthermore, awareness of exactly what these duties entail was low, with some responses demonstrating a false conflation of Human Rights Act duties with those placed upon local authorities by the Equality Act (2010).
In an article published by the Sunday Post, Mhairi Snowden, the Consortium’s Director, stated:
“Protecting human rights does not seem to have been a priority for many Scottish public authorities during Covid-19.”