"A new era for human rights”: Commission welcomes Scottish Government commitment to ground-breaking new human rights law for Scotland

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has warmly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce a new human rights Bill to implement the recommendations in today’s report from the National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership.

Read the report from the National Taskforce

Read the Scottish Government’s response

Incorporating new rights into law

The planned new Bill would incorporate four international human rights treaties fully and directly into Scots law: those covering economic, social and cultural rights, disabled people’s rights, rights of black and ethnic minority people, and women’s rights.

The treaties to be incorporated are:

  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Recommendations for the proposed Bill also include a right to a healthy environment, rights of older people and rights of LGBTI people.

The new human rights law would mean public bodies and others have duties to uphold these rights, and the rights will be enforceable in Scottish courts.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and member of the National Taskforce, said:

“Today’s Taskforce recommendations, and the Scottish Government’s commitment to implement them, represent a major milestone for human rights in Scotland. This marks the beginning of a vital new era for all of our rights.

“The Commission and others have been advocating and laying the groundwork for this move for over a decade. We are delighted to see such a significant step towards achieving stronger implementation and legal protection for people’s rights in Scotland.

“There is now a real, positive opportunity for Scotland to build a human rights culture that puts people’s voices and rights at its heart. A new Bill creates an opportunity to both embed human rights into decision making and to secure better access to justice when things go wrong.”

“Human rights laws are the cornerstone of making rights meaningful in people’s lives. The Human Rights Act has already helped bring the European Convention on Human Rights closer to home for people. A new human rights Bill will now build on that foundation and provide stronger protection for a much wider range of rights.

“The Taskforce’s recommendations respond to the challenges of our times, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, environmental harms, entrenched inequality and changing demographics.

“By making rights enforceable in areas such as health and social care, housing, food and social security, we can secure real change in how people’s rights are upheld in their everyday lives. By incorporating specific rights for particular groups, we can provide tailored legal protections for those who are the most likely to experience violations of their rights and inequality.

“These recommendations directly connect people’s lives in Scotland to our international legal obligations.”

Wider recommendations

The National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership has made 30 recommendations, which have been accepted by the Scottish Government. These cover both the content of a proposed new human rights Bill and ways in which it should be developed and implemented.

Recommendations follow over eighteen months of detailed dialogue with civil society organisations and public bodies, and an online public engagement project supported by the Scottish Human Rights Commission in partnership with the Human Rights Consortium Scotland. A separate report is also published today, detailing the views and experiences of over 400 people who took part in this project. LINK

Commenting on the Taskforce’s work, Judith Robertson, said:  

“It was essential for all of us on the Taskforce to hear from a broad and diverse range of people from across Scotland, including grassroots community groups, civil society representatives and public body officials and leaders. It has been a privilege to play a part in that process and hear these vital insights.

“The message we heard from all quarters was loud and clear: all of our internationally protected rights are important and need to be better protected and implemented, both in law and in practice. Access to justice and remedies when things go wrong is also crucial for people.

“People’s experiences and insights will continue to drive and shape what happens next. The Commission looks forward to working with the Scottish Government, the next Scottish Parliament, and people and organisations from across Scotland, to ensure this much needed and ground-breaking new human rights framework becomes a reality as quickly as possible.”


Notes to editors

The National Taskforce for Human Rights was established in early 2019, in response to recommendations made in December 2018 by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights

The United Nations human rights treaties to be incorporated by a new human rights Bill are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

A public engagement project called All our Rights in Law helped to inform the Taskforce’s recommendations, run by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commisson. The report of findings from that process is published alongside the Taskforce report.

The Commission’s past work in advocating for the incorporation of all international human rights into law is collated on our website.