Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board minutes: November 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing, and Local Government
  • Professor Alan Miller
  • Charlie McMillan
  • Danny Boyle
  • Eileen Cawley
  • Eilidh Dickson
  • Heather Fisken
  • Jatin Haria
  • Jen Ang
  • Juliet Harris
  • Karen Stewart
  • Kavita Chetty
  • Lisa Borthwick
  • Lorraine Cook
  • Mark Hazelwood
  • Mary Brennan
  • Matthew Downie
  • Megan Snedden
  • Mhairi Snowden
  • Shivali Fifield

Guest attendees

  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission


  • Elisabeth Campbell
  • Helen Fogarty
  • Anna Sheehy
  • Louise Halpin
  • Daniel Garraghan
  • Joe McKeown
  • Fraser Meechan
  • Ciar Nixon
  • Afson Barekat
  • Victoria Morton


  • Gary Christie
  • Hannah Martin
  • Tim Hopkins
  • Yvonne Blake

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed attendees, noted apologies, and highlighted changes to the membership.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the minutes of the inaugural meeting had been published on the Scottish Government website, following agreement from members.

UNCRC discussion

The Cabinet Secretary introduced Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People, to give an update on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Supreme Court ruling.

The minister highlighted the Scottish Government accepts the Supreme Court judgment and continues to consider the implications carefully, including any implications for the Human Rights Bill. It was also noted that the Scottish Government are urgently and carefully considering the impacts of the judgment and remain committed to the incorporation of UNCRC to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable.

The minister also emphasised that while the judgment means that the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill could not receive Royal Assent in its current form, the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can proceed and is continuing. Furthermore, the minister highlighted that the judgment makes clear that the Scottish Parliament has the competence to incorporate human rights treaties.

Members asked how the judgment could impact the Government’s ambition for both the UNCRC and Human Rights legislation. The minister stressed the commitment to progress cross-sectorally supported UNCRC incorporation. The Cabinet Secretary noted that giving domestic legal effect to international treaties can only be carried out through incorporation, and given the multi-treaty interlinked aspect of the Human Rights Bill, the complexity was anticipated and that implications are being looked at in detail, in order to make the legislation as effective as possible.

Members noted their appreciation of the transparency of meetings of this nature. Reflecting on the involvement of children and young people on the UNCRC Bill, it was noted that attendees would be keen for children and young people to be kept involved in the process, through child-oriented media and communications.

Participants noted that the understanding of Scotland’s devolution settlement continues to change over time. It was added that future case law cannot be predicted and there was still hope to deliver incorporation to the maximum extent within the remit of the devolution settlements. It was also suggested that focus be placed on the range of taskforce recommendations that are still clearly achievable

The importance of strengthening access to justice was a central issue raised by attendees too, in order to ensure duty-bearers are being held to account across policy areas.

(Minister for Children and Young People left the meeting)

Progress update on the Bill

The Cabinet Secretary invited Louise Halpin, Bill Team Leader, to provide an update on the progress of the Bill.

It was noted that the Bill team continues to work on a range of issues including ensuring legal certainty, predictability and coherence of the Bill, access to justice considerations, the right to a healthy environment and initial thinking on the role of different bodies in a multi-institutional approach (given the need to reflect, post-judgment, on the role of the courts). Furthermore, discussions are ongoing with strategic scrutiny groups on capacity-building which were highlighted as important to commence early in the process.

Participants asked about what links and relationships were being made with the Good Food Nation (GFN) team, and how the right to food would be incorporated. It was noted that the decision was taken for the right to food to be incorporated within the Human Rights Bill due to its being part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and that this method would be the best method in order to ensure intersectionality and cohesion of the Bill.

Attendees highlighted that stakeholders feel strongly that access to justice should be affordable, navigable, and reasonable and that this will be essential to the effectiveness of the Bill. It was also noted that access to justice is more than just access to remedies and the topic would need to be broken down into manageable discussions to enable it to be fully explored.

Public participation and lived experience

Officials provided an update on the Scottish Government’s work on engaging with the public whilst developing the Bill, and noted this will include engagement with adults, children and young people and those with lived experiences of facing barriers to accessing their rights. It was also highlighted that there is a recognition of intersectionality and how people access their rights, so participation will gather a diverse range of views from a diverse range of rights groups.

Members paused for a two minutes silence at 11 am for Armistice Day.

Members felt the level of participation could be taken further, perhaps with direct involvement of lived experience views at Advisory Board and Executive Board meetings.

Members noted the importance of clearly planning engagement and to consider participants’ willingness to share experience, models of remuneration, and experience in working around digital exclusion. Members also added that they felt it would be useful for the Scottish Government to be visible and involved in the participative process.

Forward look

The Bill team outlined the proposed topics for discussion at the upcoming meetings of the Advisory Board.


The Cabinet Secretary updated members that Madhu Malhotra, Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights was moving on from Scottish Government in December, and that an interim director would be appointed in due course. It was also highlighted that Elisabeth Campbell, Deputy Director for Human Rights, would be interim deputy chair for the Advisory Board.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked attendees for their participation and noted the next meeting of the Advisory Board is anticipated in January.

Meeting ends.

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