Scotland needs a National Action Plan

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is today starting a wide participation process that will lead to Scotland’s first National Action Plan for Human Rights. The National Action Plan, to be drafted over the next year, will set out how to “fill the gaps” in human rights protection in Scotland with public bodies, civil society and others having the opportunity to get involved in shaping the Action Plan.

Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights will be based on evidence found in a new report, also published today, called Getting it Right? Human Rights in Scotland.

(The above is in .doc format - you can also download Getting it Right? as a PDF.)

Getting it Right?, the result of a three year research project, highlights both the “gaps” and “good practices” in the realisation of internationally recognised human rights across eight key themes:

  • Dignity and care

  • Health

  • Where we live

  • Education and work

  • Private and family life

  • Safety and Security

  • Living in detention

  • Access to justice and the right to an effective remedy

Go to the Action Plan mini-site to read Getting it Right?

Some of the specific issues highlighted in the research include the right to adequate housing, fair pay, fuel poverty, availability of services in rural areas, policing, the rights of victims of crime, non-discrimination in healthcare, and the rights of disabled people, Scottish Gypsy/Travellers and asylum seekers in Scotland. 

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said: “What we’ve found in this study is that while Scotland has made notable progress in a number of areas, it can do better. Crucially the research has shown that while there are some good high level policies and strong legislation, the realisation of human rights doesn’t always happen in peoples day to day lives.

“More needs to be done to ensure that human rights are consistently upheld in areas like housing, healthcare, social care, education, and in the justice system. There is much more that could be done to bring Scotland up to internationally recognised standards of enjoyment of human rights.

“From today the Commission will be working closely with a range of people and organisations to draw up a meaningful National Action Plan that sets out who has responsibilities, what the barriers might be and crucially a range of solutions that are workable and practical.

“The Commission will then monitor progress made in the implementation of the National Action Plan.”

Several other countries already have National Action Plans for Human Rights including Demark, Australia, New Zealand, and Finland.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has endorsed the Scottish process. She said: “It is very important that countries develop and implement National Action Plans with the participation of civil society, public bodies, United Nations experts, academics, parliaments and individuals. National Action Plans can bring clarity to States in identifying the steps they must take to improve the promotion and protection of human rights, especially for the most vulnerable people. I am pleased to welcome the initiative taken by the Scottish Human Rights Commission to carry out this broad consultation."

Martin Sime, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “We are pleased to support the development of Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights. Part of our core mission at SCVO is to bring about meaningful social change, increasing the voluntary sector’s contribution to public services and adding to the wider public benefit through the contributions to society from our members. An Action Plan which sets out how the voluntary sector in Scotland can play its part in raising awareness of human rights in the day-to-day delivery of services will be useful as well as timely.  

“At SCVO we are keen to see over the coming months a clear approach to how best Scotland can meet its international human rights commitments, especially in this time of economic uncertainty which has put many of our members and the people who use their services under pressure.

“We look forward to engaging with the Commission and with our members in the coming months to create a robust National Action Plan for Human Rights which could lead to real change in Scotland, and will raise the level of understanding about the benefits of human rights for everyone across the country.”

Councillor Harry McGuigan, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson added: “I am delighted to welcome today the start of what I am sure will be a full and productive exercise to create Scotland’s first National Action Plan for Human Rights. 

“COSLA will be seeking to encourage local government to take an active role in the development of the Action Plan to ensure that it, along with guidance and other support, create structures and processes that will be helpful to councils in determining policy, setting strategies and allocating resources.

In addition to the participation process, running until March 2013, the Commission will be holding an InterAction event in Glasgow on Monday 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

Go to the Action Plan mini-site to find out more.