Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board minutes: October 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board on 25 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies


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

  • Alan Miller, Independent Expert and Former National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership co-chair

  • Brianna Fletcher, COSLA

  • Catherine Murphy, Engender

  • Charlie McMillan, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability

  • Danny Boyle, BEMIS

  • Eileen Cawley, Scottish Pensioner’s Forum

  • Emma Hutton, Just Right

  • Graham O'Neill, Scottish Refugee Council

  • Jatin Haria, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights

  • Stephanie Griffin, Equality and Human Rights Commission

  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland

  • Kavita Chetty, Scottish Government

  • Robert Foster, Who Cares Scotland

  • Gordon McRae, Shelter Scotland

  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission

  • Mark Hazelwood, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care

  • Mhairi Snowden, Human Rights Consortium Scotland

  • Neil Cowan, Crisis

  • Paul Traynor, National Carers Organisations

  • Paula Preston, Scottish Civil Justice Council

  • Shivali Fifield, Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland

  • Rebecca Crowther, Equality Network

  • Yvonne Blake, Poverty and Inequality Commission


  • Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland

  • John Wilkes, Equality and Human Rights Commission

  • Mary Brennan, Scottish Food Coalition

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees welcomed members to the meeting and introduced herself the as the new chair of the Advisory Board.

The Minister placed on record her thanks to members for their input to the consultation process, and for their support in undertaking an extensive programme of engagement over the 16 week period.

It was noted a letter was issued to members ahead of this meeting from the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice and Minister for Equalities Migration and Refugees to thank members for their input to the consultation. This will be posted on social media for members to share with their networks.

Emerging themes from the consultation

The Bill Team highlighted the consultation had received almost 400 responses, and a contract had now been awarded for consultation analysis as part of an open bidding process. It was explained that initial meetings had taken place with the organisation to discuss the Scottish Government’s expectations for this analysis, taking on board feedback from Advisory Board members at the previous meeting.

Bill Team policy leads outlined key themes identified in the early review of consultation responses. On incorporation the strength of duties associated with rights were flagged, alongside timescales for duties to come into force. The need for clarity on a range of aspects of the Bill, such as minimum core obligations and dignity were also discussed.

On access to justice the consultation responses felt work was moving in the right direction, but there were areas where there could be more detail and ambition. Proposals for enhanced powers for the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and roles for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and scrutiny bodies were broadly supported, subject to enhanced resources for the organisations.

Implementation responses stressed the need for outcome focused and accessible reporting related the Human Rights Bill. Concerns over capacity and resource among duty bearers were stressed, alongside a preference to align duties where possible.

Wider reflections from Board Members on consultation

Members felt the initial feedback was encouraging, and the accessibility and transparency during the consultation process was welcomed. The Bill Team explained they would continue to be open and transparent as far as possible, with further engagement ahead of the Bill’s introduction.

The timescales for publication of the consultation analysis were discussed. It was noted the analysis report is anticipated to be produced in early 2024 and the Advisory Board would be notified when this becomes available.

Next steps – policy development & engagement

Plans for engagement over the next period were outlined, with discussions expected to take place with key stakeholders in a range of areas to progress the Bill’s development. Recent internal and external meetings were highlighted including recent internal discussions within the Scottish Government, and work of the Implementation Working Group.

Members noted the consultation did not provide timescales on issues such as the shift towards a compliance duty. The Bill Team explained further consideration was needed of the commencement timeline taking into account a range of factors such as the time needed to deliver a meaningful participatory process and to develop guidance. There is also further discussion to be had a cross a broad range of stakeholders including the Implementation Working Group would take place to hear further views on this matter.

The complexity of the Bill was recognised, particularly in relation to incorporation. Members felt this was making it difficult to engage with their networks on some aspects of the Bill. The Bill Team noted this and advised they would keep accessibility in mind moving forward.

Any other business

The Minister thanked members for their time and noted the next Advisory Board meeting is anticipated to be in December 2023.

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