Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 23 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities
  • Alan Miller. Independent expert and former National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership co-chair
  • Alexis Camble, COSLA
  • Eileen Cawley, Scottish Pensioners Forum
  • Emma Hutton, Just Right Scotland
  • Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland
  • Jatin Haria, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Kenny Stewart, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Laura Pasternak, Who Cares Scotland
  • Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mary Brennan, Scottish Food Coalition
  • Mhairi Snowden, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Shivali Fifield, Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland
  • Oonagh Brown, Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities
  • Paula Preston, Scottish Civil Justice Council
  • Rebecca Crowther, Equality Network


  • Catherine Murphy, Engender
  • Danny Boyle, BEMIS
  • Lorraine Cook, COSLA
  • Mark Hazelwood, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care
  • Neil Cowan, Crisis
  • Paul Traynor, National Carers Organisations

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Minister called the meeting to order and noted apologies received.

The Minister highlighted her response to the joint letter sent by some members of the Advisory Board in September to the First Minister and reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to the Bill.

Human Rights Bill engagements undertaken by the Minister were referenced includng a meeting with Professor Alan Miller. The Minister had also met with Councillor Maureen Chalmers, with an invitation extended to Councillor Chalmers to attend the January meeting of the Advisory Board. The panel discussion hosted by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland was also highlighted as a key recent engagement.

A short update was provided on the UK Government’s British Bill of Rights plans. The Minister was clear that the Scottish Government would continue to be resolute in its commitment to defend the Human Rights Act.

Bill updates and forward planning

Trevor Owen provided an update on behalf of the Human Rights Bill Team on resourcing, policy development and next steps of developing policy proposals towards consulting in 2023.  Trevor flagged an increase in resources and members asked for sight of an organogram.

Updates were provided on the current positions in relation to model of incorporation and civil and political rights. It was stressed these positions would continue to be an iterative process and the Bill Team will continue to develop proposals alongside stakeholders

Trevor explained progress made in mapping out the duties and obligations that the Bill could place on duty bearers. The Bill Team expects to test these initial considerations with stakeholders via a series of meetings starting in December. The Bill Team have also been testing initial considerations of front-line complaints handling mechanisms of public bodies, escalation of complaints, and the role of scrutiny bodies through a series of engagements with key stakeholders this week.

Updates were also provided on plans to take forward thinking with regards to implementation.

Lived Experience Boards

Joe McKeown from the Bill Team introduced Juliet Harris, Oonagh Brown and Mhairi Snowden to provide updates on the Lived Experience Boards.

Juliet Harris outlined the work of the Human Rights Detectives, which now had responses from over seventy children and young people on key issues related to the Bill. A report on their work is due to be published by the end of this year. The next stage of this work likely to focus on rights breaches that will provide valuable information for the Bill Teams access to justice considerations.

Oonagh Brown provided an update on the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities Lived Experience Board. A key theme discussed by members of this board involved how to improve participation in decision making, with a report for this block of meeting anticipated in December.

Mhairi Snowden described recent discussions among the Human Rights Consortium Lived Experience Board on the cost-of-living crisis and how this links to housing, mental health, and an adequate standard of living in the Human Rights Bill. A report for this work will be completed soon.


Members discussed recent Bill engagement including the proposed method of incorporation; some members expressed concern at the potential for the Bill to be less ambitious than they had hoped in terms of incorporating the treaties. The continued dialogue among Scottish Government policy areas to ensure coherence of the Bill was highlighted as being important.

Civil and political rights were discussed, with it noted there is a complex and changing landscape given the UK Government’s proposed British Bill of Rights Bill. Members emphasised the importance of taking any steps to protect civil and political rights, while acknowledging the Human Rights Bill would need to remain mindful of competence constraints.

Forthcoming engagement in areas such as duties, access to justice and implementation was welcomed and there were a number of questions on the detail of policy in development. Members expressed a desire to have further engagement on the equality clause, with it noted that Who Cares? Scotland offered to deliver a presentation in a future discussion on how Care Experienced people could be considered in relation to the proposed equality clause. There was a discussion around the role of advocacy in relation to the Bill and further questions around engagement with the legal profession and scrutiny bodies, as well as what the Bill may do to protect human rights defenders.

The approach to implementation was discussed with consideration being given to an Implementation Working Group.  There was a query as to how the proposed group fitted with timescales for consultation.. Members felt it would be beneficial for officials to explore how lived experience can feed into implementation considerations as this work develops.

Any other business

It was noted that the next meeting of the Advisory Board would be in January 2023.

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