- Read our response to the Human Rights Bill for Scotland consultation, supported by 38 organisations here.
- Read our second response summarising community conversations with migrants about the Bill here.
Scotland is on the cusp of a historic change in how human rights are protected within its borders. The Scottish Human Rights Bill will enshrine international human rights treaties and the right to a healthy environment directly into Scots law, ensuring rights like the right to food, adequate housing, health, and education become enforceable, regardless of who you are. This significant step forward will make these rights tangible and accessible to all, but it’s crucial that we scrutinise the Scottish Government’s Bill proposals carefully.
Positive Aspects of the Government’s Bill Proposals
Firstly, the government’s intention to incorporate more human rights into Scots law is commendable and overwhelmingly welcomed by organisations across civil society. Incorporation of all of our rights is the best way to make them enforceable and see rights made a reality in people’s lives. We welcome many parts of the Government’s Bill proposals, such as new duties on scrutiny bodies, and new duties to deliver baseline levels of rights for all.
However, as we delve into the specifics, it becomes apparent that improvements are needed to the Government’s proposals to ensure that the Bill can robustly protect people’s rights. To read more about this, see further details within our responses.
The Consultation: A Report Card
The recent publication of the consultation document by the Scottish Government gives us an opportunity to evaluate their proposals. In essence, we are handing them a report card that says, “You could do better.”
Here are some key areas where improvements are necessary:
- Access to Justice: The consultation falls short in proposals around how individuals can seek help and access justice when their rights are violated. For human rights to be more than just words on paper, there must be clear and straightforward avenues for people to seek redress.
- Devolution Limits: While recognising the complexities of devolution, we urge the government to maximise the incorporation of human rights within their powers. Transparency in decision-making regarding these limitations is essential.
- Disabled People’s Rights: The Bill must make disabled people’s rights enforceable. Anything less will hinder the progress they need for their rights to become a reality.
- Timelines: The government should provide clear timelines within the Bill, outlining when new public body duties will become enforceable.
Civil Society Support
The Human Rights Consortium Scotland (HRCS) has actively engaged with civil society through the “It’s All Rights” series of events. These events have been instrumental in shaping the conversation around the Human Rights Bill and have garnered significant support.
Across our event series, we engaged 417 organisations. We have put some other statistics below to highlight the Consortium’s work:
- Number of “It’s All Rights” events: 13
- Number of external events attended by our director Mhairi and senior policy officer Lucy: 10
- Partner organisations involved in “It’s All Rights” events: 9
- Community conversations around migrants’ human rights: 8
- Facilitation of external events outwith the series: 9
- Total registrations across the series: 903
- Civil society organisations registered to attend an event: 379
- Total organisations registered to attend an event: 417
- Total hours of events: 22.5 hours
The level of interest and engagement around the consultation is a really positive reflection of just how much civil society support there is for this Bill.
Moving forward, it is crucial that the Scottish Government takes into account the concerns of civil society in the consultation process.
Chief among these concerns is the need for a strong duty on disabled people’s rights, improved access to justice, and clear timelines for implementation.
Additionally, planning for the implementation of the Scottish Human Rights Bill must begin in earnest. This is a pivotal moment for human rights in Scotland, and the government must seize this opportunity to create a Bill that reflects Scotland’s commitment to protecting the rights of every individual, especially those most at risk.
The Bill is set to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament before Summer Recess next year. Before this time, the Consortium will work hard to emphasise our key messages from consultation responses.
The Scottish Human Rights Bill holds immense promise for enhancing human rights in Scotland. However, it is incumbent upon all of us, including the Scottish Government, to ensure that this Bill is as strong and comprehensive as it can be. By working together and listening to the ideas and responses of civil society, we can create a Human Rights Bill that truly values and protects the rights of all Scots. Scotland’s future is one where human rights are not just ideals on paper but a reality for everyone.