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

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 3 February 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Cristina McKelvie MSP
  • Shona Robison MSP
  • Alan Miller
  • Alexis Camble
  • Alison Byrne
  • Andy Sirel
  • Danny Boyle
  • Eileen Cawley
  • Eilidh Dickson
  • Elisabeth Campbell
  • Gary Christie
  • Heather Fisken
  • Jatin Haria
  • Juliet Harris
  • Karen Stewart
  • Luis Felipe Yanes
  • Lisa Borthwick
  • Lorraine Cooke
  • Lynn Welsh
  • Mark Hazelwood
  • Mary Brennan
  • Megan Snedden
  • Mhairi Snowden
  • Oonagh Brown
  • Shivali Fifield


  • Anna Sheehy
  • Louise Halpin
  • Dan Garraghan
  • Marisa Strutt
  • Fraser Meechan
  • Ben Gaston
  • Victoria Morton
  • Kirndeep Kaur


  • Kavita Chetty
  • Mary Brennan
  • Matthew Downie
  • Tim Hopkins

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Cabinet Secretary called the meeting to order and introduced Alison Byrne who recently took up the role of Interim Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights within the Scottish Government.

The Cabinet Secretary outlined that the Scottish Government’s view is that the Human Rights Bill must ensure accountability of duty bearers and that access to justice workshops have been arranged with relevant stakeholders to ensure this complex landscape is fully taken into account in policy development.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the work on the Bill to date has been extensive, and explained that the Scottish Government remain thoughtful about the Supreme Court judgment on the UNCRC Bill and the implications this will have for the Human Rights Bill. Careful consideration is being given to the right approach for the Human Rights Bill, and the Scottish Government will continue to work with stakeholders during this process.

Bill team update

Louise Halpin, Bill Team Leader, was introduced to provide an update on bill work since the last meeting of the Advisory Board.

Louise provided an update on the lived experience work noting that the Human Rights Consortium Scotland (HRCS) and the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD) have been working closely with the Scottish Government to set up the first meetings of our Lived Experience Board in late February and early March. It was also highlighted that officials are exploring options for another work stream of the Lived Experience Board that will focus on children and young people.

The extensive work being carried out amongst policy areas internally within the Scottish Government was highlighted as being key to ensure policy development takes account of wider Scottish Government policy, the Covid response and Covid recovery. It was noted officials have been working at pace engaging with a wide range of relevant policy areas across Government on the essential policy links are made with wider work. The complexity of this work was highlighted as the Bill will likely touch on all areas of government and into the public sector, therefore officials have been working hard to drive forward this extensive work in recent months.

Members highlighted the importance of the lived experience work and continued participation. It was noted that considering ways to engage with stakeholders at a community level would be important to ensure their networks have an awareness of the Bill and can shape its development.

Access to justice

Members were thanked for their support in the development of the access to justice elements of the Bill thus far, and the Cabinet Secretary noted a recent Executive Board meeting also highlighted the vast scale of this topic.

Mhairi Snowden and Luis Felipe Yanes provided members with some background to the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership (Taskforce) access to justice considerations and how the Taskforce felt this was an area that should be further explored during the Bill development process. The importance of ensuring remedies are affordable, accessible, effective and timely was emphasised with another important consideration being how the Bill can prevent repetition of systemic issues.

Dan Garraghan from the Bill Team was introduced to initiate the breakout groups to discuss the paper that was circulated with members prior to the meeting. Members were split into three breakout rooms, each with a focus on one of the following topics:

  • prevention of breaches
  • non-judicial remedies and routes to remedies
  • judicial remedies and routes to remedies

It was noted the information gathered through this discussion would feed into other forums such as the access to justice workshops planned to take place with stakeholders throughout February. In addition, it was noted there would be further ways to shape the access to justice work as the policy develops.

Upcoming consultation

The Minister noted that members will be aware that in the 2021-22 Programme for Government the Scottish Government committed to consulting on the Human Rights Bill in the coming year, and to introduction within this parliamentary session. The Minister underlined that the Scottish Government will ensure the consultation is developed with the assistance of stakeholders, listening and learning from their expertise and recommendations to make the consultation as accessible as we can.

Anna Sheehy, Head of Human Rights Strategy and Legislation, reiterated that the Scottish Government will work with stakeholders to make the consultation as accessible and inclusive as possible. Timescales were discussed, subject to Ministerial clearance, which would take into account local government elections and allow sufficient time for the lived experience work and other engagements to feed into the consultation. It was highlighted that questions asked within the consultation will build on the First Minister’s Advisory Group and Taskforce engagements.

Members highlighted they were mindful of the length, complexities and timescales involved in responding to the consultation and provided suggestions such targeting questions at specific audiences and clarifying that those responding need not feel obliged to answer all questions.

Members also queried whether it might be possible to publish real time responses to the consultation or identify key themes which could assist with focusing minds, and stressed the importance of transparency throughout the process. Furthermore, the prospect of facilitator packs were also raised by members which would assist members reaching out to their wider networks to engage in the consultation and Bill development process.

Forward look

Louise Halpin highlighted the document that was shared prior to the meeting outlining topics to consider at the upcoming meetings of the Advisory Board. It was noted that the Bill Team would welcome further input into developing the forward look, so if members have any suggestions for future agenda items to get in touch with the Bill Team.


The Minister highlighted there have been some changes to the membership since the inaugural meeting in September. The Minister noted that she now feels the Advisory Board has the size and more importantly the expertise to hear everyone’s views on these complex issues. As such it was noted there was unlikely to be further changes to membership, although it was stressed that aside from the consultation process and the Advisory Board there will be many further opportunities in future through other forums to collaborate on the process.

The Minister thanked members for their time and expertise and noted the next meeting of the Advisory Board is expected to be on 16 March 2022.

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