Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board: August 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board on 21 August 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

  • Alan Miller, Independent expert and former National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership co-chair

  • Cat Murphy, Engender

  • Danny Boyle, BEMIS

  • Eileen Cawley, Scottish Pensioners Forum

  • Emma Hutton, Just Right Scotland

  • Garrick Smyth, COSLA

  • Graham O’Neill, Scottish Refugee Council

  • Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland

  • John Wilkes, Equality and Human Rights Commission

  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland

  • Laura Pasternak, Who Cares Scotland

  • Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland

  • Mhairi Snowden, Human Rights Consortium Scotland

  • Paul Traynor, National Carers Organisations

  • Shivali Fifield, Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland


  • Emma Roddick MSP, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees

  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission

  • Mark Hazelwood, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care

  • Mary Brennan, Scottish Food Coalition

  • Oonagh Brown, Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities

  • Yvonne Blake, Poverty and Inequality Commission

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed members to the first meeting of the Advisory Board since January 2023, highlighting the Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees will be chairing the Advisory Board moving forward. The Minister had sent apologies for today so the Cabinet Secretary would be stepping in to chair on this occasion.

It was noted the Scottish Government published its consultation on proposals for the Human Rights Bill on 15 June, with the Cabinet Secretary placing on record her thanks to members for their input and support over the last period. It was explained the consultation will run for 16 weeks, closing on 5 October 2023.

The Cabinet Secretary explained the considerations when developing proposals seen in the consultation. This included the need to have a clear and accessible Bill, so that duty bearers know and understand what they need to do, and a Bill that works within the limits of devolved competence. It was acknowledged there will be differing views on proposals, so the Cabinet Secretary explained the Scottish Government are open to suggestions that will deliver a clear and accessible law that is within competence.

Overview of consultation proposals

The Human Rights Bill Team provided an overview of the proposed incorporation method, highlighting the complexities of creating a clear, strong framework, allowing all the rights to be read together as intended, while being within the limits of Scotland's devolved powers. Further detail was provided on consideration of duties and the equality provisions that have been set out in the consultation document.

Access to justice and implementation considerations were also discussed including proposals for judicial and non-judicial remedy. The Bill Team also provided information on how the Human Rights Bill could be implemented including thoughts on the Human Rights Scheme, capacity-building of duty bearers, and monitoring and reporting.

Members shared their thoughts on the consultation proposals covering a range of issues such as the incorporation method, duties, access to justice and implementation. This included views on where members felt the consultation proposals could go further, with a recognition the Bill needs to remain within devolved competence.

Engagement – Consultation period and lived experience update

The Bill Team discussed its approach to engagement during the consultation, including in-person and online events being hosted. It was noted that events so far had a lot of interest and enthusiasm with calls to make the legislation accessible for both rights holders and duty bearers. In addition to events, targeted engagement with specific people or groups has also been arranged with the Bill Team.

The Lived Experience Board was discussed with there now being ten reports completed by the three Lived Experience Boards, with quotes from the reports featuring in the consultation document. The work programme for the Lived Experience Boards for 2023/24 was highlighted.

The accessible formats of the consultation document were noted. This includes audio, Gaelic, easy-read, facilitator guides and a child-friendly version of the consultation. The Bill Team provided a link to Citizenspace for members which had further details of the accessible version of the consultation.

Members raised the possibility of extending the consultation period for a further four weeks, explaining the summer holidays had impacted on capacity to engage in detail with their networks and respond fully to the consultation. The Cabinet Secretary explained this would not be possible, with the consultation already running for sixteen weeks, but stressed the consultation would not be the end of conversations, with continued engagement to continue in the months ahead that will help to shape the Bill.

The Bill Team thanked members for running consultation events with their networks and for invitations to join these meetings.

Any other business

The consultation analysis was raised by members. It was noted the Bill Team were happy to discuss expectations for the analysis further after today’s meeting.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked members for their time and noted the next meeting of the Advisory Board is likely to be in October 2023.

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