Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Angela O'Hagan (AOH)


  • Naomi Clark (NC)
  • Joe Chalmers (JC)


  • Rob Watts (RW)


  • Rob Priestley (RP)
  • Simon Wakefield (SW)
  • Joanne Briggs (JB)
  • Michaela Wilson Martincova (MWM)
  • Ben Walsh (BW)
  • Alison Hosie (AH)
  • Jillian Matthew (JM)
  • James Campbell (JC)
  • Chris Birt (CB)
  • Jacqueline Farmer (JF)
  • Emma Congreve (EC)
  • Sara Cowan (SC)
  • Joanna Anderson (JA)


  • Gill McCrum (GMC)
  • Julia McCombie (JMC)
  • Nick Bland (NB)


  • Elisabeth Campbell (ECa)
  • Tom Lamplugh (TL)
  • Mirren Kelly (MK)
  • Kenny Stewart (KS)
  • David Holmes (DH)

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions 

AOH welcomed the group and outlined the session. AOH introduced Rob Watts (RW), a Knowledge Exchange Associate from the University of Strathclyde's Fraser of Allander Institute. RW would be discussing his findings from his recent work in human rights budgeting including a case study as part of a Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) fellowship.

Rob Watts – human rights budgeting

RW introduced himself and outlined his work with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) as part of its Academic Fellowship programme. This programme aims to build links between academic expertise and the work of the Scottish Parliament. He broke down his findings into two parts.

An overview of human rights budgeting in theory

RW presented the findings of his SPICe report to the group. He outlined differences between the Human Rights Act 1998 and the planned Human Rights Bill in Scotland. Explaining that the Human Rights Act 1998 covers civil and political rights, and the planned Human Rights Bill in Scotland is aiming to extend this coverage to also recognise economic, social and cultural rights. In turn, moving towards the definition of progressive realisation. Which is later discussed in more detail. RW continued to explain how human rights budgeting would work in practice and identified three principles: transparency, participation, and accountability. Noting that accessibility was essential and must underpin these principles in practise.

When outlining further on what human rights budgeting looks like, RW spoke about the criteria that governments should use to assess their budgets in line with human rights obligations. This criteria is:

  • progressive realisation - The Government’s understanding that they need to take continuous steps forward to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights are realised over time
  • minimum core obligations The bare minimum a government should do to ensure that society’s rights are being met
  • non-retrogressive measures Governments should not take away rights that were previously there unless identifiable benefits can be seen from this
  • non-discrimination - Budgets should be allocated to reduce systemic inequalities
  • maximum available resources - Governments are obliged to fulfil human rights obligations to the maximum of its available resources

Human rights budgeting in a case study

RW then went on to give a practical example of Human Rights Budgeting within the context of spend on social care and social security. He outlined examples of this such as Article 11 from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), the right to an adequate standard of living. This applies to spending on social security, specifically the Adult Disability Payment. He then applied the principles mentioned above to these decisions to determine whether he considered that the government had met its human rights obligations:

  • progressive realisation - Research shows that spending has increased in this area and therefore progressive realisation has been met. However, it was an increase in claimants that drove the spending increases, not an increase in payment amounts
  • minimum core obligations - Through data gathering, it was discovered that there were many adults with learning disabilities still in hospital despite not needing medical assistance, this was due to there being no social care package in place to discharge the patient
  • non-retrogressive measures It was discovered that eligibility criteria had been tightened in the past decade, as has local government funding in general
  • non discrimination - At the time of research there was no disaggregated data on people with learning disabilities
  • maximum available resources - There is no Scottish Government assessment on what funding the strategies need, so it was difficult to determine whether the Government are raising sufficient resources for the strategy

Wider lessons and reflections

RW went on to reflect about his research outlining these conclusions:

  • budgets are a means to an end for government to meet strategic aspirations and Human Rights should be obligations not aspirations. This means that a change in the budget cycle is required, such as structuring the principles around the budget
  • for the example of Social Security spending, it was easy to look at this area in isolation. When you do this at a more broader level, such as the budget, you need to identify how gaps would be funded and whether it would be taken away from other Human Rights areas or portfolios
  • there needs to be a clear understanding of the different areas of government, whether that be the UK Government, the Scottish Government or at local authority level. This will better identify where different aspects of Human Rights obligations haven’t been met


Members commented that they had found it useful to hear about the work that RW had undertaken and his reflections on the budget process.

RW was asked about examples of other countries doing Human Rights Budgeting well. He gave an example of South Africa having Human Rights embedded in their constitution which gives civil society organisations recourse to look at budget decisions and challenge them. RW also noted that, in practice, Human Rights Budgeting is primarily used by advocacy groups to analyse a government’s budget and a great deal of work will be required to realise such an approach in part of a government’s budgeting process.

The group reflected that whilst it was useful to have minimum core obligations, this should not be the only focus for government but instead the threshold for meeting Human Rights obligations.

AOH noted further conversations would be welcome with CB and EC on child poverty, and SC on childcare provisions. 

Action: Meeting to be scheduled with AOH, CB and EC

Meeting to be scheduled with AOH and SC

Any other business

The next meeting is scheduled for 16 February 2023 on the Strategic Review of Funding for Violence Against Women and Girls.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Equality and Budget Advisory Group
Scottish Government
Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit
Area 3H North
Victoria Quay

Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group

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