Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

ICESCR was ratified by the UK in 1976. It requires the UK to respect, protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural rights. These include workplace rights, the right to social security, the right to participation in cultural life, and rights to housing, food, water, healthcare and education.

Incorporating ICESCR into Scotland's domestic laws

"Incorporation" means including an international treaty in national law so that its contents are directly enforceable. ICESCR has not been incorporated into Scotland's laws. This means the rights it contains are not "justiciable". This means they cannot be enforced in our courts and have less protection than the rights contained in the Human Rights Act 1998 (rights like the right to vote, right to a fair trial and the right to life).

In December 2015, the Commission and Scottish Government co-hosted a major conference, Putting the Justice into Social Justice, to explore models and benefits of incorporation. Read the conference papers here. Giving a keynote speech at the event, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, committed to exploring how to incorporate international human rights into Scotland's laws. The Commission wants to see progress made on these ambitions.

More information

This briefing paper by Dr Katie Boyle explains more about economic, social and cultural rights and how they could be better protected in Scotland.

The Commission's paper on Creating a Fairer Scotland makes recommendations for realising economic, social and cultural rights.

This lecture by James Wolffe QC explains the risks and benefits of different models of incorporation.