Scotland’s new social security system could protect human rights, address poverty and reduce inequalities

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the Scottish Government to put human rights, and the principles of dignity and respect, at the heart of the new social security system to be introduced as part of Scotland’s most recently devolved responsibilities.

The Commission believes that explicit recognition of social security as a human right would ensure that the system plays a fundamental role in:

  • addressing issues of stigma, discrimination, and poverty; and
  • reducing inequalities in areas such as housing, health or education.

Responding to the government’s recent consultation on the new system, the Commission emphasised that:

  • social security is a human right protected by multiple international treaties.
  • people with experience of the system must be involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of Scotland's new social security system – a basic principle of human rights.

In its response, the Commission calls for human rights to be fully recognised through the new social security system, and highlights ways in which current government proposals risk failing to deliver a service that protects and respects people’s dignity in their day to day lives.

Read the Commission’s full submission

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commission, said:

“Social security is a fundamental human right protected by a solid body of international legal standards to which we as a country have signed up. As the Scottish Government embarks on redesigning a social security system based on dignity and respect, it has a perfect opportunity to implement this right in law, policy and practice, and make a difference where it really matters - in people’s day-to -day lives. This would fit well with the First Minister’s commitment to doing more to realise economic, social and cultural rights in Scotland.

“Now is the time to get this right. Scotland has the opportunity to establish a transformative, world-leading system of social security with legal protection for people’s rights and a culture of respect for people’s dignity at its heart.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s intentions when it comes to taking a rights-based approach to this task and hope to see this carried through into practice. As it proceeds with its plans, the Scottish Government must ensure a gap does not open up between what they say they will do to protect people’s rights around social security, and the reality experienced by people on the ground.”


Notes to Editors

  1. The Scottish Human Rights Commission is Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution with a statutory mandate to promote and protect human rights for everyone in Scotland.
  2. The Commission is an internationally recognised Human Rights Institution which holds the highest status within the UN system.
  3. The right to social security is protected in a range of international human rights treaties including: Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 12 of the European Social Charter, Article 34 of the EU, Charter of Fundamental Rights, the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 102 and General Comment 19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  4. The Commission’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on A New Future for Social Security is published on its website.