Rising cost of living puts human rights at risk in Scotland, warns Commission

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has given evidence to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in Geneva, as part of the Committee’s review of how these rights are experienced in the UK, including Scotland.

Our Policy and International Officer, Eilidh Dickson, presented a strong statement to the Committee and warned that issues such as rising housing costs and the soaring prices of basic essentials such as food and heating are jeopardising people’s right to an adequate standard of living.

Read the statement on our website.

We sent a report to the UN last month identifying issues where more could be done to ensure people’s human rights are respected and protected in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Read the report on our website.

As a signatory to the Covenant, the UK has accepted obligations to protect, respect and fulfil the right to an adequate standard of living, to education and the highest attainable standard of health. The treaty sets out these standards and establishes monitoring, known as treaty body review, where the record of a country is scrutinised by an expert Committee.

As Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the Commission has a critical role in providing information and evidence to help this and other United Nations Committees. Our report reflects our mandate to protect and promote human rights in Scotland by highlighting areas of concern, including where the rights protected by an international treaty might be at risk.

Cost of living crisis

This review process is an essential part of accountability in the international system. The UK and Scottish Government and other public bodies have a legal responsibility to outline areas of progress or lack of progress and to respond to questions from the Committee. Every four to five years every country signed up to the treaty is reviewed. 

Since the end of the last review in 2016, we have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, cost of living crisis and legal changes following Brexit. International issues such as energy costs and the impacts of climate change for food security and global inequalities between vulnerable groups.

The Commission’s Policy and International Officer, Eilidh Dickson, says:

“Our report warns the Committee that the rising cost of living is putting people’s rights at risk. For example, housing costs are making people more vulnerable to homelessness and the cost of basic essentials such as food, heating or transportation is jeopardising people’s right to an adequate standard of living.”

“We are asking the Committee to ask the Scottish Government for more information about priority concerns such as variable access to healthcare across Scotland, rising poverty rates, the slow rollout of social security and the shortage of data we all need to properly monitor the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.”


Notes to editors:

  1. As Scotland’s A-rated National Human Rights Institution, the Commission has a responsibility to monitor Scotland’s performance on international treaties and report to the United Nations.
  2. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: OHCHR | Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  3. Our submission to CESCR supports the development of a list of issues for discussion prior to its review (LoI) of the UK and Northern Ireland in 2023.
  4. The report summarises the situation in Scotland from the last treaty review in 2016 to December 2022
  5. The Commission works with civil society organisations to find out about issues and concerns, and we collate and analyse this evidence before reporting it to the relevant UN Committee: International Treaty Monitoring | Scottish Human Rights Commission