What’s happening now? Update on Incorporating International Human Rights into Scots law

National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership

This Taskforce was set up to develop the FM Advisory Group recommendations on Human Rights Leadership,  as well as to explore incorporation of CEDAW (as recommended by National Advisory Council on Women & Girls) and other international human rights treaties.

The Taskforce will:

  • design and deliver detailed proposals for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland
  • develop a public participatory process as a vital part of preparation of the Act and its final implementation
  • make recommendations around capacity building, to enable effective implementation of the Act.


The Taskforce is Government-led and has support from a small team within the Scottish Government. The Taskforce members are:

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People (Government Co-chair)
  • Prof Alan Miller, Professor of Practice in Human Rights Law, University of Strathclyde and Special Envoy of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (Independent Co-chair)
  • Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities
  • Cath Denholm, Director NHS Health Scotland, and Deputy Chair Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
  • Murray Hunt, a Barrister specialising in Human Rights, and Legal Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law
  • Fiona Killen, Member Constitutional Law Sub-Committee, Law Society of Scotland
  • Prof Elisa Morgera, Co-Director of Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance
  • Nils Muižnieks, Former Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
  • Cllr Kelly Parry, Councillor and COSLA’s spokesperson for community well-being
  • Alastair Pringle, Executive Director Corporate Delivery and Scotland, Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland
  • Judith Robertson, Chair, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mhairi Snowden, Co-ordinator Human Rights Consortium Scotland

Academic Advisory Panel

Members of this panel are:

  • Professor Nicole Busby, University of Glasgow. Professor of Human Rights, Equality and Justice. (Chair)
  • Dr Katie Boyle, University of Stirling.
  • Professor Tobias Lock, Maynooth University, Ireland.
  • Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, University of Edinburgh.
  • Dr Elaine Webster, University of Strathclyde

The Taskforce so far…

  • Timescale

It’s first meeting was in November 2019, and it is due to report by February 2021.

*Due to many Taskforce members having frontline roles in responding to COVID-19, invitations to Taskforce discussions have been delayed.  However, the Taskforce will resume its usual pace as soon as possible.*

  • Meetings

You can read minutes of Taskforce meetings here.

  • Civil society engagement

The Taskforce is planning a series of discussions with civil society to inform its work.

There will be a broad civil society reference group, expected to meet twice in Summer and Autumn 2020.  This group will initially provide analysis on the FM Advisory Group recommendations and incorporation of international human rights treaties from their organisation’s expertise.

In addition, smaller, in-depth discussions will be held with organisations working with/for those from specific groups such as women, children, older people, disabled people, LGBT people, and on race.

Putting the UNCRC into Scots law

Over the past decade, there have been consistent calls from civil society, academia and importantly children and young people to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law. In response to these calls, the Scottish Government has committed to introduce a Bill to incorporate the UNCRC in time for it to pass before the 2021 elections.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP made this commitment on Wednesday 20 November 2019 said:

“…The bill that I will introduce next year [to incorporate the UNCRC] will take a maximalist approach. In every case possible, we will seek to incorporate the convention’s articles in full and directly, using the language of the convention.”

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