Attendees and apologies
- Bill Stevenson, Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Clare Morrison, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
- Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission
- Mhairi Snowden, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
- Professor Nicole Busby, University of Glasgow
- Nina Miller, Audit Scotland
- Rachel Grant, Scottish Courts
- Rebecca Spillane, Improvement Service
- Sarah Rodger, Perth and Kinross Council
- Simon Cameron, COSLA
- Professor Alan Miller, Professor of Practice in Human Rights Law
- Professor Elaine Webster, Strathclyde University
- George Dodds, Public Health Scotland
- Lesley Crozier, Scottish Councils Equality Network
Items and actions
Kavita Chetty welcomed members to the meeting, provided introductory remarks and discussed actions that were taken forward from the last meeting. Apologies were noted from members above.
Lived Experience Board
Joseph McKeown provided an overview of the Lived Experience Board (LEB) and its work to date supporting the development of the Bill. The LEB has produced a number of reports highlighting key issues from across a number of areas, which will be collated into a short paper for each IWG meeting, to reflect the theme of each meeting.
The first short paper highlighted LEB views on the proposed Human Rights Scheme. IWG members had the following reflections on key themes emerging from the reports:
- the importance of monitoring and reporting for transparency, and the need for public authorities to be held to account on their efforts to progressively realise the rights
- the Scottish Government needs to publish information under the Scheme in a way that is accessible and usable, which articulates the change that has happened, rather than the process
- timescales for reporting under the Human Rights Scheme were discussed with members keen to strike a balance, noting that timescales should be often enough to facilitate change, but not too often which risks over burdening duty bearers, given the resourcing challenges many currently face. It was noted the Lived Experience Board is alive to these points
- whilst the burden of reporting was recognised, the main reason for this is accountability and driving change. These two themes should inform and drive the decision about how often reporting should happen to allow for accountability to happen in real time and allow time for change
- members stressed the importance of public authorities carving out sufficient time once reports have been completed to fully consider findings and plan actions based on the content of reports. This could be done by making data collection and reporting more streamlined to create the additional time to review findings
reports themselves do not equal Ministerial accountability. Stakeholders would like more information about who specifically will scrutinise reports, over and above the Scottish Parliament – which committees?
- in improvement work, there is considerable time spent on reporting and monitoring, and not enough time dedicated to actions which are identified from the reports undertaken. How can we make reporting simpler through mechanisms like automatic data collection, so that more focus and time can be spent on actions in response to the information collected?
Carola Eyber, Team Leader for Child Rights Reporting and Monitoring gave a presentation on the Children’s Rights Scheme (CRS), outlining the aims, development and content of the CRS, as well as discussion on key challenges and next steps.
It was noted that the reporting cycle of the CRS was debated among forums before settling on a one year reporting cycle. This was to provide the opportunity for the CRS to take into account new developments at an international level, such as United Nations General Comments.
It was noted that from the civil society perspective, there appears to be a gap between the reporting and seeing evidence of change. It was questioned whether the one year cycle will lead to continuous reporting without meaningful change.
Human rights scheme
Ailsa Higgins and Lucy Visocchi, Human Rights Strategy and Legislation Unit, gave an overview of the Human Rights Scheme, outlining proposed aims, the mechanics of the scheme, and proposals on what topics the Scottish Government are considering for inclusion in the scheme. These included reporting on human rights budgeting processes, plans or proposals for improvements to access to justice, and guidance to support the implementation of the Bill.
Listed groups for consultation
Members commented that the groups (‘listed groups’ with whom Scottish Ministers will be required to consult in advance of publishing their report) should include specific groups of rights-holders, including those covered by the equality treaties. In addition, the listed groups should include those most at risk of rights breaches, as well as the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
Scope of content
Members agreed that while the proposed content of the Scheme covers important aspects related to implementation, it was felt that there should be greater focus on addressing systemic issues and gaps in implementation, as well as demonstrating a strong focus on the progressive realisation of rights and how Scottish Ministers are striving to achieve this.
It was proposed that in consultation with listed groups, Scottish Ministers should focus on consulting specifically on gaps, issues and challenges to effective implementation, thereby identifying systemic issues, and then setting out how they will address these in the next period. It was also suggested that Scottish Ministers could be required to consider issues being flagged in public body.
It was suggested that the Scheme could take a different approach and not include reporting on every ‘arrangement’ or listed measure under each reporting cycle, but instead have a smaller and more targeted focus in reporting, and address different arrangements through different reports.
The potential reporting cycle for the Human Rights Scheme was discussed. Concerns were raised that annual reporting would not leave time to drive the necessary meaningful change and accountability. It was noted that the resource requirements to service reporting on all of the rights in the framework and across the proposed arrangements would be extremely onerous on an annual cycle. It was also noted that having a longer reporting cycle than the CRS could be perceived as the Scottish Government placing a different priority on progressively realising the rights of groups protected by the HR Bill Framework, compared with children and young people.
Members emphasised the importance of ensuring duty bearers, communities and scrutiny bodies are all on the same page regarding the content and expectations of reporting and monitoring. Members suggested that in order to do this, clear guidance would be needed that explicitly outlines what is required of public authorities, as well as guidance on the format of reports. The opportunity to streamline reporting processes was also raised.
Any other business
Members continued to be supportive of the approach to ensuring Lived Experience input at the beginning of meetings. It was noted that this was a specific action point from the previous meeting and should be captured as such.
A question was asked about a plan for implementation. It was noted the Human Rights Bill would be introduced to Parliament during this coming Parliamentary year. It was also highlighted that the Scottish Government was aiming to publish its mainstreaming strategy on how to embed equality, inclusion and human rights, with the consultation on this commencing this year.
- Mhairi Snowden raised the LEB reports being shared in advance of meetings which was not recorded on the minutes from the August meeting. It was agreed that the minutes from the previous meeting (August 2023) would be amended, and that LEB reports would be covered at the start of meetings going forwards
- it was confirmed that an in-person meeting of the Core IWG would be planned before the end of 2023
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