Budgets are a key sign of a government's values. So, if human rights are not in there, what's being said is that they are not a value worth counting.

Professor Aoife Nolan

What is Human Rights Budget Work?

Taking a human rights based approach to budgeting means distributing resources in a way that puts people first. 

It involves thinking through how people's rights are impacted by the way that money is raised, allocated, and spent. Specifically, budget decisions should reflect human rights standards and the process of formulating, approving, executing, and auditing the budget should reflect human rights principles.

Why are human rights relevant to the budget?

All governments must respect, protect and fulfil human rights. The way they generate, allocate and spend money plays a key role in this.

You can't guarantee the right to vote if you don't have an effective electoral system and you can't guarantee the right to habitable, accessible, affordable and secure housing without well-regulated public and private housing sectors.

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Our Work

Report: Open Budget Survey Results for Scotland's 2021-22 Budget 

The Commission is currently repeating research (from 2019) to assess Scotland's budgetary process in line with the International Budget Partnership's (IBP) Global Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2023. The Commission will report on the results as part of the Global Report launch in May 2024.

Downloads and Links:


Human Rights Budget Work: What, Why and How?

These briefing papers explain the "what, why and how" of using human rights to create and scrutinise Scotland's national budget.

The papers have been developed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and a range of academic and other partners as part of a Human Rights Budget Work project.



  • Human Rights Budget Work: What, Why, How? Collected Briefing Papers. [Word| [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 1: Human Rights Budget Work. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 2: The Context for Human Rights Budget Work in Scotland. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 3: Human Rights Budgeting. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 4: Human Rights Budget Scrutiny. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 5: Human Rights Standards and the Budget. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 6: The Budget Process and Human Rights Procedural Principles. [Word] | [PDF]
  • Briefing Paper 7: Human Rights and Taxation [Word] | [PDF] 


Pre-Budget Scrutiny 2024-25

A briefing for the Social Justice and Social Security Committee on Pre-Budget Scrutiny 2024/2025 to support oral evidence given by the Commission on Thursday 21 September 2023.

Response to the Finance and Public Administration’s Pre-budget scrutiny of Scotland's public finances in 2023-24, with a focus on the impact of the cost of living and public service reform

A letter to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament on its Pre-Budget Scrutiny 2024-25.

Recent articles and opinion pieces

Scottish Budget 2024-25: Human rights budgeting is a powerful tool for change

The Time to Introduce Human Rights Budgeting for Scottish Councils is Now

We Need Human Rights Based Taxation to Help Scotland Build Back

Making Rights Real: the Role of Human Rights in the Public Budget


Working groups and external engagement

Since the Commission's EU funded project into human rights budgeting in 2018, a programme of ongoing work has been developed to better understand and support wider scrutiny of public spending decisions through a human rights lens. 

This work includes:

  • Chairing the Human Rights Budgeting Working Group which drives and supports the Commission's human rights budget work programme
  • Permanent member of the Equality Budget Advisory Group
  • Member of the Open Government Action Plan short life working group on Fiscal Transparency
  • Collaborative PhD (with Dr Katie Boyle of Stirling University and Dr. Jo Ferrie of Glasgow University) on Minimum Core Obligations: using a sociology of human rights to examine the potential for human rights budgeting in Scotland
  • Participating at the Human Rights Cities Alliance Leadership Summit, May 2023, Atlanta Georgia
  • Participating at the Cost of Living Crisis: A human rights response, October 2023, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Participating at the Social Policy Association Symposium on Taxation in a Post-Covid Era July, 2021
  • Development of three process indicators to support scrutiny of national and local council budget processes
  • Supporting further capacity building on human rights budget scrutiny through a What? Why? How? Human Rights Budget Scrutiny event on 15 March 2019
  • Participation at the CIFPA Public Finance Live Scotland 2019 Annual Conference
  • Publication of a background briefing paper on human rights budgeting and budget analysis which details how applying a human rights framework to the budget would add value to efforts to realise social justice in Scotland.

Policy publications

More Information

To find out more or discuss any aspect of this work, contact our Research Officer, Dr Alison Hosie.  


Scottish Parliament Budget Explorer Tool 

Further Reading and Useful Links

2018 Masterclass Presentation Slides


Publications and Resources

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