Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Advisory Board.


The Scottish Government is committed to upholding and promoting the values of an open, inclusive, diverse, tolerant and progressive democracy. Human rights are central to those values and to the vision, shared with Scottish civil society, of a Scotland where all can live with human dignity, through the realisation of internationally-recognised human rights.

That overarching commitment is further expressed through Scotland’s refreshed National Performance Framework which establishes an explicit National Outcome for human rights – “We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination”. The meaningful realisation of our human rights must also play a vital part of recovery, and building back better, from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the publication of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership report on 12 March 2021, the Scottish Government is now taking forward the development of a Human Rights Bill as part of its commitment to deliver all 30 of the report’s recommendations for the Scottish Human Rights Framework.

This Bill will aim to create a single, accessible piece of legislation protecting international human rights, including economic, social, and cultural rights through the incorporation, so far as possible within competence, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  (ICESCR) alongside three international frameworks for the empowerment of women, disabled persons and minority ethnic people, as well as standalone rights to a healthy environment, and for older people, and provisions guaranteeing equal enjoyment of these human rights including for LGBTI people.

The next steps will include: a public participative process; formal consultation; preparation of legislation and policy and explanatory memoranda; the parliamentary legislative process; development of guidance; as well as capacity-building and development of training and good practice.

Purpose and objectives

The Advisory Group will function as a sounding board and advice giving group, for the Scottish Government, to consider and discuss issues that arise in the development of the Bill. Matters will be put to the Board, either at meetings or by correspondence, for their consideration and comment. The Scottish Government will use the views expressed by members to inform decisions to develop the Human Rights Bill.

The Board will provide this advice cognisant of the following conditions:

  • the Scottish Government has accepted the recommendations of the Report of the National Taskforce, and has committed to deliver them
  • the Human Rights Bill takes place within a wider context of commitments (such as the FMAG report), lessons learned from the UNCRC Bill, and socioeconomic and political events (EU Exit, Covid-19) that are all relevant to the content of the Bill and the Scottish Government’s direction of travel on Human Rights. The advice of the Board should take appropriate account of these matters
  • as with all legislation, the Bill must be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The advice of the Board should take appropriate account of this and respect that the Scottish Government will take its own legal advice on these matters which cannot be disclosed to the Board
  • the Board’s advice is a valued source of knowledge and experience that nevertheless sits equally alongside other sources of intelligence such as the findings of formal consultations, the output of public participatory work, and other individuals and groups that may be constituted at the discretion of Scottish Ministers to inform aspects of the Human Rights Bill
  • a priority for the Scottish Government is that the work to develop the Bill is inclusive and brings as many groups and individuals with us as possible. An important part of the Board’s role is to ensure that voices of lived experience from across their own stakeholder networks are heard and inform the advice they provide


The Chair of the Board will be Cristina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People. The Chair, or deputy, will be expected to attend all meetings.

Madhu Malhotra, Director for Equalities and Human Rights, is Deputy Chair who can lead meetings in the Chair’s absence if required.


The Board will receive secretariat support from the Programme Office of the Human Rights Bill Team in the Scottish Government.

Size of the Board

The size of the Board at any one time will be limited to approximately 20 members in total, but the Board composition may increase or decrease at the discretion of the Chair. For example, the Chair may wish to temporarily increase the Board to include views from stakeholders who have particular lived experience of specific issues.

Additionally, Scottish Government staff, such as Bill team members, or policy officials, will attend where necessary.

Frequency and mode of working

The first meeting of the Board is expected to take place in September 2021. The Board will remain in place until up to the Summer of 2024 with its relevance and Terms of Reference reviewed yearly.

It will meet every two months. The Chair may alter the frequency of meetings at her discretion, and meetings may be more frequent as the draft Bill nears its final stages before submission to Parliament.

Meetings will be held in line with the latest public health guidance. For this reason, the standard format will be to meet remotely via MS Teams unless or until such time as the Chair decides it is practical and safe to meet in person in line with public health guidance.

It is at the Chair’s discretion whether members can send representatives from their member organisations on their behalf, or if observers from member organisations can attend alongside them. The expectation is that members will prioritise this work and try to attend all meetings. Members should notify the secretariat team if they cannot attend a meeting, if they wish to send a designated representative in their place, or if they wish to bring observers or additional contributors.

There will be no remuneration, financial or otherwise, for the time of members who represent organisations that would be reasonably expected to participate in work of this type in carrying out their professional roles. Members are selected in recognition that informing the work to develop the Human Rights Bill is a relevant aspect of the work of the organisation they represent for which no additional payment is required.

If, over the course of time, public health guidelines permit physical meetings to take place, we will provide guidance at the time on remuneration for expenses.

From time to time, the Chair may invite members to take part in bilateral or multilateral stakeholder meetings or to support the work of the Public Participatory Process, as representatives of the Board, or in their capacity as experts or as having lived experience of a particular policy area. If these meetings or events are face-to-face, then remuneration for expenses to attend will be agreed by the Chair on a case-by-case basis and in line with Scottish Government financial reimbursement regulations and guidance. The Chair may also request members to undertake work between meetings on behalf of the Scottish Government, and remuneration for any such work will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Conduct of members

You must work positively and respectfully with the secretariat, stakeholders and with any other advisers appointed to assist you in your role as a member of the Advisory Board, to ensure timeous delivery of your remit and to undertake all work associated with delivery of these functions as may be required from time to time.  

You must have regard to your remit as set out in this document in discharging all your duties in this role.

Relationship with the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government will provide secretariat support to the Advisory Board and other administrative, analytical, digital and communications support as required. 

You will work closely with the secretariat for the Advisory Board (“the secretariat”) and with other civil servants as required. The secretariat is responsible for managing, monitoring and allocating funds associated with the administration of the Advisory Council and/or the discharge of its functions.  

In discharging your functions, you may:

  • seek the support of the secretariat to prepare information, papers, data and analysis
  • correspond and/or hold regular meetings with the secretariat

But you must not:

  • ask the secretariat or other civil servants to do anything that is inconsistent with the Civil Service Code
  • behave towards civil servants in a way which would be inconsistent with the standards set by the Scottish Government for conduct generally
  • authorise the expenditure of public funds, have responsibility for budgets, or any involvement in the award of external contracts

Papers and standing documents

A minute capturing attendance as well as the qualitative views expressed during the meeting will be taken by the secretariat.

The agenda and minutes of the previous meeting will be circulated ahead of meetings for pre-clearance by correspondence so that the meeting itself can allow more time for discussion of substantive matters.

Where it is helpful and relevant, briefing papers and other materials will be circulated to members to inform these discussions. 

All papers will be shared with members by email unless other accessibility formats are required.

Accountability and transparency (publishing minutes)

The Board will comply with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs). Papers for the meetings will be shared with Executive Board members by email. 

The Advisory Board secretariat will ensure that relevant information about the Board’s work is communicated to interested parties and is accessible to the public, for example through the Scottish Government website.


Members should be mindful of Scottish Ministers’ commitment to inclusion and diversity in public life and, in fulfilling their role on this Board, should strive to assist in creating a culture and environment that enables the Scottish Government to harness the talents of everyone by enabling and promoting the participation of people from under-represented groups.

Confidentiality and responsibility

The Chair shall advise on all aspects of confidentiality with respect to the information presented to and discussed by the membership.

Information shared with Board members should be treated as sensitive and not for onward distribution, unless prior permission in writing has been sought and obtained from the Secretariat. Any inputs shared with the Board for discussion will be considered confidential and not for further sharing without written permission from its author.

Committee members have been selected for their professional expertise. They are of course free to engage with media and communications as they so wish but should be clear that they are speaking in a personal capacity except where they are explicitly authorised to represent the agreed views of the Committee.

For the avoidance of doubt, participation in the work of the Board is without prejudice to the statutory independence of the National Human Rights Institutions and their compliance with the requirements of the Paris Principles.


  • Alan Miller – Independent Expert and Former National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership co-chair
  • Cath Denholm - Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Danny Boyle – BEMIS
  • Eileen Cawley - Scottish Pensioner’s Forum 
  • Eilidh Dickson – Engender
  • Emma Laurie - Scottish Civil Justice Council
  • Gary Christie – Scottish Refugee Council
  • Hannah Martin - National Carers Organisations
  • Heather Fisken – Inclusion Scotland
  • Jatin Haria – CRER
  • Andy Sirel – Just Right Scotland
  • Juliet Harris – Together
  • Mark Hazelwood - Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care
  • Mary Brennan - Scottish Food Coalition
  • Matthew Downie – Crisis
  • Megan Snedden – Stonewall
  • Mhairi Snowden – Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Mirren Kelly - COSLA
  • Shivali Fifield - Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland
  • Tim Hopkins – Equality Network
  • Yvonne Blake - Poverty and Inequality Commission
Back to top