All human beings are entitled to basic rights and freedoms. We want to create an inclusive Scotland that protects, respects and fulfils internationally recognised human rights.




Human rights is a subject devolved to Scotland by the Scotland Act 1998. The Scottish Parliament also has competence to observe and implement international human rights treaties. We work within that legal framework.

In Scotland, civil and political rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998 and provisions in the Scotland Act 1998. These rights come from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Other rights are also recognised under international treaties which apply to Scotland. These are mainly economic, social and cultural rights. They include rights relating to employment, housing, health, education and adequate standards of living.

The European Union also guarantees the rights of people in Scotland in areas where EU law applies. These laws cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The Scottish Ministerial Code is clear that Ministers must comply with the law, including international law and human rights treaty obligations.

Bills and legislation

The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. It means that public organisations, such as the government, councils and the police, must protect and abide by human rights. If human rights have been breached, cases can be taken to UK courts.

The Scotland Act 1998 ensures that laws passed by the Scottish Parliament can be challenged and overturned by the courts if they are not compatible with rights identified in the ECHR. Scottish Government Ministers have 'no power to act' in a way that breaches these ECHR rights.

The Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006 created the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC). The SHRC is an independent public body that promotes and protects the human rights of everyone in Scotland.

Scotland's approach to human rights is also governed by international law. This has developed since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Seven major UN human rights treaties, along with eight Council of Europe human rights treaties, currently apply to Scotland.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000 - Central Enquiry Unit

Scottish Government
Human Rights
Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights
Victoria Quay

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