Land Reform

Land reform in Scotland is an important human rights issue. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 was passed in April 2016.  

Why is land ownership a human rights issue?

Land ownership and access to land in Scotland is an emotive issue. During 2014 and 2015, the Commission engaged with a wide range of stakeholders, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government, to encourage everyone involved to recognise that human rights are engaged in the debate.

We stressed that Scottish Ministers are empowered by the Scotland Act 1998 to observe and implement international human rights obligations. These include but go beyond the European Convention on Human Rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights places a duty on Ministers to use the maximum available resources to ensure the progressive realisation of rights like the right to housing, food and employment.

Viewed through this broader human rights lens, land is seen as a national asset, with key questions arising of how to strike the most appropriate balance between the legitimate rights of landowners and the wider public interest.

What has the Commission done?

In 2014 and 2015 the Commission gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government on land reform.

We wrote about human rights and land reform in the Herald in April 2015.

Climate Justice

Climate justice recognizes and makes explicit the human cost of climate change.

As important and profound as the impact on the natural world may be – loss of species, loss of habitats, bleached coral reefs, shrinking polar ice and more – there are also big impacts on people. These include access to water and sanitation, housing and homelessness and loss of livelihoods. 

These impacts are not being, and will not be felt equally unless we take a human rights based approach to dealing with the challenge of climate change.


The Commission has been working with the Scottish Government, Parliament and civil society to encourage the development of a human rights based approach to securing climate justice. In September 2017, we submitted our views to a Scottish Government consultation on proposals for a new Climate Change Bill.

Read a speech from Alan Miller which gives an overview of our work on climate justice.

Talks and documents on climate justice

Read Mary Robinson's 2011 Magnusson lecture: "Climate Justice - Challenges and Opportunities" (Mary Robinson was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 1997-2002).

Read the report of the Working Group on Climate Change and Human Rights to the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, 2012.

Read Professor Alan Miller's 2013 lecture: "From Climate Change to Climate Justice" (Prof Miller was the Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission 2009-15).