Crossroads: which way now for the human rights system in Scotland?

The Commission has published a new discussion paper, considering how Scotland should create stronger ways to protect human rights by learning from the experiences of rights holders.

It follows a series of proposals in Scotland to create new commissions or commissioners representing a range of people and themes. For example, current proposals include a Disability Commissioner, an Older People’s Commissioner and a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Commissioner.

In the paper, we reflect on why persistent challenges to accessing justice, or, a failure to see policy intent improve lives, may be leading to dissatisfaction with the current human rights system; and ask what can be done now to build a system where people can name and claim their rights.

We also provide some insight into the Commission, including its role as a National Human Rights Institution, its current powers and resources. We also ask whether one way to develop human rights protections in Scotland might be to see the Commission strengthened to fulfil its mandate even more powerfully.

Jan Savage is Executive Director of the Scottish Human Rights Commission. She says:

“Clearly, the system isn’t working for too many and we support the need for greater visibility and more effective access to justice routes for a wide range of people.

"The lived experience of people in communities across Scotland behind calls for new public bodies demonstrates to the Commission that there is a significant and persistent gap between rights and reality.  The question for Scotland, as a rights respecting country, is how best to truly close this gap through a stronger human rights system.

“As the Scottish Government opens its consultation on proposals to deliver the incorporation of UN Human Rights treaties into Scots Law, there has never been a better moment to have this conversation.”

Read the paper on our website: At a crossroads – which way now for the human rights system in Scotland? 

We will be running a series of roundtables over the summer to talk about the discussion paper and potential ways forward.

The proposed dates and times are as follows:

  • Thursday 22 June 2023, 10am to 11am
  • Wednesday 28 June 2023, 2pm to 3pm
  • Monday 3 July 2023, 11am to 12pm
  • Thursday 13 July 2023, 6pm to 7pm 
  • Tuesday 18 July 2023, 10am to 11am
  • Tuesday 25 July 2023, 2pm to 3pm

To find out more about these roundtables or our discussion paper, please contact Legal and Policy Development Officer Luis Felipe Yanes at