Commission launches spotlight focus on human rights across the Highlands and Islands

The Scottish Human Rights Commission launches a project to find out how human rights are being experienced across the Highlands and Islands.

As Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution, the Commission is mandated by an Act of Parliament to monitor human rights in Scotland. As part of this role in 2023/24, the Commission will focus and report on what is happening to people’s economic, social and cultural rights in the Highlands and Islands.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in rural areas

In March 2023, the Commission delivered a report to the United Nations in Geneva on how economic, social and cultural rights are being experienced in Scotland.  Our evidence gathering to inform this highlighted the following issues of particular human rights concern in rural areas of Scotland:

  • Lack of affordable and quality housing
  • Limited access to sufficient and nutritious food
  • Inaccessible health care services
  • Fuel poverty
  • Access to technology or poor internet connectivity
  • Poverty related attainment gap in education
  • Transport connectivity to essential public services and supplies

The Commission has therefore taken the decision to take a deeper look at these potential human rights denials to understand more about how economic, social and cultural rights are being experienced in the Highlands and Islands.

The project will involve four stages:

  • Desk based research and literature review of existing published evidence
  • Fact-finding visits, speaking to third sector organisations, community representatives and local MSPs' caseworkers.
  • Accessing information on trends of complaints made to MSPs and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • Analysing all the information under human rights obligations and issuing a final report with recommendations to the relevant authorities.

Community visits

The Commission will be collecting new data and meeting with third sector organisations, community representatives and MSPs in Lerwick, Kirkwall, Thurso, Wick, Dingwall, Inverness, Elgin, Stornoway, Tarbert, Ullapool, Portree and Dunoon in a series of face-to-face meetings during October and November 2023.

The Commission will be presenting a final spotlight report on the Highlands and Islands to the Scottish Parliament in Spring 2024.

Jan Savage, Executive Director of the Commission, said:

The Commission wants to understand the human rights issues affecting people in rural areas across the Highlands and Islands. We are focusing on economic, social and cultural rights, which includes how the government provides essential services to people for things like housing, health, education, culture and environmental rights.

“We have been approached by members of communities in the Highlands and Islands who are concerned about lack of affordable housing, high levels of food insecurity and difficulties in accessing medical services in rural areas.

“Through our treaty monitoring work to the United Nations, we have found that there is a lack of information and available data, specific to the Highlands and Islands, in comparison to the rest of Scotland.

“As part of our monitoring role on human rights, we will be researching this situation further and establishing if public authorities are doing enough to provide essential services and support for people in rural areas to access their economic, social and cultural rights.”

The Commission will be visiting the following places on the dates indicated below and would like to speak to voluntary organisations and community representatives who are interested in sharing concerns affecting people's rights in the area. Please contact us about this project by emailing

Lerwick, Shetland, on 23 – 24 October 2023

Kirkwall, Orkney, on 26 – 27 October 2023

Thurso, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross,  on 30 October 2023 

Wick, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, on 31 October 2023

Dingwall, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, on 1 November 2023

Inverness, Inverness & Nairn, on 2 November 2023

Elgin, Moray, on 2 November 2023

Stornoway, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, on 6 November 2023

Tarbert, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, on 7 November 2023

Ullapool,Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, on 8 November 2023

Portree, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, on 9 November 2023

Dunoon, Argyll & Bute, on 13 -14 November 2023 

For media enquiries please contact:
Judy Fladmark
07880 398530/
Or email

Notes to editors: 

  1. As Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution, mandated to monitor human right in the country, the Commission will use this opportunity to report on what is happening to people’s economic, social and cultural rights in the Highlands and Islands.
  2. By using the power conferred to the Commission in section 4(1)(b) in the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006, we will be presenting a report to Parliament and issuing a series of recommendations in Spring 2024.