Commission welcomes Programme for Government commitments to human rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes the commitments in today’s Programme for Government aimed at improving the protection of people’s human rights.

In particular, it commends the commitment to bringing forwards a new Human Rights Bill, which represents a major milestone for human rights in Scotland. The new Bill will incorporate four international human rights treaties 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 (see below). The proposed Bill will also include a right to a healthy environment, rights for older people and an equality clause, including for LGBT+ people, to ensure equal access to the rights contained within the Bill.

It will mean public bodies and others will have duties to uphold all of these rights and they will be enforceable in Scottish courts.

The Scottish Government further announced today that consultation on the framework bill will begin in 2022.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

“The commitments in today’s Programme For Government directly connect people’s everyday lives in Scotland to our international legal obligations. The new Bill should both embed human rights into decision making in areas such as health and social care, housing, food and social security and secure better access to justice when things go wrong. This is an opportunity for Scotland to build a human rights culture that puts people’s voices and rights at its heart.

The Commission warmly welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to focus on engaging and consulting with relevant communities while developing the new Human Rights Bill, particularly those with lived experience of the issues at stake. The legislation directly responds to some lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move to COVID recovery there is a need to address the underlying inequalities that resulted in disproportionate impacts on, for example, older people, women, low income families and black and minority ethnic people. In this context the Commission looks forward to the introduction of this legislation to Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

The Commission further welcomes the immediate commitment to:

  • Embed human rights and equality throughout all stages of the Budget process.
  • Develop and implement an equality and human rights strategy across all Scottish Government work.

While supportive of what the Programme for Government is setting out to achieve, the Commission now wants to see these commitments resourced and implemented meaningfully in practice. 

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

“There is a welcome focus on participative democracy and the need to consult within this Programme For Government but it must be met with the necessary time, information and financial support to facilitate high quality, meaningful and informed engagement. The Commission believes this must be built into all consultative processes. We look forward to further details of how these and other commitments will be resourced and implemented.

“On a broader note, the Commission encourages the Scottish Government to draw a clear line between some of the further policy commitments it has made today and their positive impact on human rights. For example, climate change commitments are directly connected to the right to a healthy environment, and commitments around child poverty and housing will have a positive impact on the right to an adequate standard of living. Highlighting these meaningful connections can only strengthen and develop further the goal of raising awareness of human rights and have a positive impact on the process of realising them for everyone.”


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The Programme for Government commits to bring forward a new Human Rights Bill incorporating specific rights into Scots Law, subject to devolved competence, from the following international human rights treaties:

  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (including rights to food, housing, physical and mental health, education, social security, a healthy environment, and taking part in cultural life)
  • 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)

This legislation will also include the right to a healthy environment, rights for older people so they can live a life of dignity and independence and an equality clause which provides equal access for everyone, including Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex people, to the rights contained within the Bill.