Commission welcomes key human rights pledges from First Minister

The Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Government co-hosted a major international conference in Edinburgh yesterday (9 December), marking International Human Rights Day and the second anniversary of Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP).

Putting the Justice into Social Justice” explored how international human rights can deliver progressive change for Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP gave a keynote address, pledging to include human rights in Scotland’s national performance framework and to consider how to incorporate more international rights into Scotland’s domestic law. Delegates also heard from a range of international speakers, legal experts, academics and practitioners working on human rights issues.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the day, Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said:

“Yesterday the debate about how to implement human rights in Scotland reached a new level of ambition and seriousness.

“The First Minister made two key pledges. First, to consider how to incorporate international human rights treaties into Scots law. Second, to reflect human rights outcomes within Scotland’s National Performance Framework. The Commission strongly welcomes these two hugely important steps forward.

“These actions will significantly improve accountability for the protection of human rights for everyone. They provide fresh impetus for incorporating human rights into making policy and delivering services so that people’s rights become a reality in everyday life. And they put human rights at the heart of how we assess our performance as a country.

“This progressive, forward-looking direction of travel stands in stark contrast to the negative, regressive debates about the Human Rights Act that continue to rumble in the UK Parliament. The Commission fully supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to resist any regressive changes to human rights laws by the UK Government and to keep moving forwards, not back, when it comes to fulfilling our international human rights obligations.

“Of course, attention in Scotland must now turn to translating these new commitments into action.

“Debates about practical next steps began yesterday and will continue in the months ahead. Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights, now moving into its third year, will continue to be an important vehicle for bringing together all who have a role to play in these discussions, including the Commission, Government, civil society, people whose rights are affected in practice, and public authorities.

“We were fortunate yesterday to be joined by colleagues from Finland, Germany and the United Nations. Their expertise and experience of incorporating international human rights into domestic laws was immensely valuable, informative and inspiring. By taking forward yesterday’s commitments, Scotland now has the opportunity to be a world leader itself."

A comprehensive progress report on SNAP's second year has also been published by the Commission today.