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Promoting human rights internationally

Scotland's International Framework provides a high level focus for our international engagement in a rapidly changing world.  As a good global citizen, Scotland has a strong and enduring commitment to securing democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights across the world.  We expect all states to comply with fundamental and human rights law, and condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur.

International engagement

Scotland uses its international engagement as an opportunity to help increase respect for, and understanding of, human rights worldwide.  We will have ongoing dialogue with states at Ministerial and official level, raising human rights where appropriate in a diplomatic and culturally sensitive manner.  We will share our experiences, values and expertise in areas such as justice, education and climate change with a view to seeing the human rights of people across the world fully realised.

International development

The Government believes that human rights and protection from discrimination should not be restricted to those fortunate enough to live in Scotland or other progressive modern states.  In times of global economic hardship, it is often the poorest who are hardest hit.  The Scottish Government's International Development Policy demonstrates our commitment to supporting countries in the developing world.  Scotland's unique approach to international development is making a real difference to some of the world's most vulnerable people.  We will continue to build on this work in the coming years.  We will also be innovative in our approach and consider how Scotland's expertise can best support development priorities.

We increased our International Development Fund's baseline budget to £9 million for the period 2007-12 and are committed to maintaining this level of funding for the duration of the spending review period.  We provide funding for Scottish NGOs to work in partnership with organisations in the developing world on priority areas, particularly where Scotland has specific skills and expertise, such as education, health and renewable energy.  Our work is clearly focussed on the objective of poverty alleviation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and must adhere to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

In addition to our International Development Fund, the £6 million Climate Justice Fund demonstrates Scotland's role in championing climate justice and in supporting the development of climate adaptation solutions.  An initial £3 million has been channelled into five water-related climate adaptation projects in Zambia and Malawi.  The second £3 million call was open to projects based in the four African countries currently partnered under our International Development Fund (Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia) until 16 June, with a focus on rights-based projects on water or energy and food connected to water, with support from business and communities in Scotland.

With independence, the Scottish Government's approach to international development would be guided by four propositions:

  • More and better aid - including a legislative basis to ensure adherence to meeting the United Nations target of 0.7% Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance
  • Debt relief - careful consideration to the question of 'unjust' debts; work to ensure Scottish export policies do not create new unjust debt and support moves to establish Scotland as an international centre for debt arbitration
  • Gender equality would be at the heart of development work
  • Do no harm - policy coherence - ensure that Scottish Government policies do no harm to developing countries, do not undermine international development aims and ideally contribute to international development success

International human rights treaties

The Scottish Government takes account of the broader international human rights framework.  We are working to ensure that Scotland's distinctive approach is incorporated into the UK's reporting to international treaty bodies and their subsequent examinations of our human rights record under UN and Council of Europe Conventions and treaties to which the UK is a signatory.

UK Bill of Rights

The UK Government has proposed repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.  In a formal response to the UK Bill of Rights Commission in 2012, the Scottish Government declared its opposition to the introduction of a UK Bill of Rights, and it would invite the Scottish Parliament to refuse legislative consent to any attempt to reduce the human rights safeguards provided in the Human Rights Act, which have been of direct benefit to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  On 11 November 2014 the Scottish Parliament passed a motion in support of the Human Rights Act.  The European Convention on Human Rights remains embedded within the Scotland Act, and we would expect this to continue to be the case under existing constitutional arrangements.


The Scottish Government is committed to being a full and active participant in human rights institutional mechanisms within the EU and the Council of Europe.  These include the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, attended the launch of Scotland's first National Action Plan for Human Rights on 10 December 2013 and endorsed it as a model for others to emulate.