Human Rights Bill Governance and Engagement Executive Board minutes: December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 7 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Angela Leitch, PHS
  • Caroline Lamb, DG H&SC and NHS Scotland
  • Cath Denholm, EHRC
  • Catherine Topley, NDPB Forum
  • Chris McCoy-Lavery, Visit Scotland
  • Elisabeth Campbell, Scottish Government
  • Emma Campbell, Scottish Water
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA
  • Jim Savege, SOLACE
  • John McMorris, SQA
  • Kavita Chetty, SHRC
  • Kenny Stewart, EHRC
  • Lorraine Cook, COSLA
  • Nicola Burnett, Police Scotland
  • Paul Johnston, Scottish Government
  • Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate
  • Teresa Medhurst, Scottish Prison Service

Scottish Government

  • Anna Sheehy
  • Ben Gaston
  • Dan Garraghan
  • Fraser Meechan
  • Joseph McKeown
  • Kirndeep Kaur
  • Liz Levy


  • Alan Speirs, Police Scotland
  • Diane McGiffen, Audit Scotland
  • James Dunphy, Scottish Funding Council
  • Sally Louden, COSLA

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Paul Johnston welcomed attendees to the third meeting of the Human Rights Executive Board. Attendees introduced themselves and apologies were noted.

Paul Johnston welcomed the Equality and Human Rights Commission who have recently joined the Executive Board. It was noted that the Equality and Human Rights Commission would be a welcome voice on the Executive Board as we move forward.

Members were also made aware of the appointment of Alison Byrne as interim Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights at the Scottish Government. It was highlighted that Alison brings extensive leadership, management, policy and delivery experience to this role, leading at present on the delivery of the Social Security Programme. Alison will start in the role in January and is expected to join future meetings of the Executive Board.

UNCRC Bill update

Liz Levy, joint Unit Head of Children’s rights at the Scottish Government was invited to provide a brief update on the UNCRC Bill Supreme Court judgment from October of this year, and the Scottish Government’s progress in responding to this.

It was noted that the Scottish Government are currently considering the implications of the UK Supreme Court judgment. It was highlighted 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.

In addition, it was also highlighted the Deputy First Minister will update Parliament in due course on the Scottish Government’s legislative solution when the complexities have been worked out. It was also noted that there are mechanisms available for consulting the UK Government as necessary.

The implications of the judgment for the Human Rights Bill were discussed, and it was noted that the Scottish Government remains committed to bringing forward a Human Rights Bill this Parliamentary session as planned, as far as possible within devolved competence.

It was highlighted that Kavita and Angela are also members of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Group which plays a similar role to this Executive Board, but in relation to UNCRC. Angela and Kavita shared some reflections in relation to the work of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Group.

The Board highlighted the National Health and Care Standards as an example of human rights-based and individual-outcome focused standards that may be useful to focus on, or draw from, to help build momentum for implementing the Bill. The Chair welcomed this proposal and instructed the Bill Team to consider these standards - and others - as well as to work with relevant colleagues where appropriate, to help build that momentum towards implementing the Bill.

Human Rights Bill update

Anna Sheehy, Head of Human Rights Strategy and Legislation, was introduced to give a brief update on the Bill Team’s work since August, when the Executive Board last met.

Anna began by advising the Scottish Government are fully aware of the significant complexities of giving best effect in Scots law to four internationally recognised human rights treaties, as far as possible within devolved competence. It was highlighted that significant work had been carried out by officials working with policy areas and stakeholders to ensure a collaborative effort in progressing with the Human Rights Bill and getting it right.

Access to justice was highlighted as a key consideration in the Bill development process, as the Taskforce envisaged a ‘multi-institutional’ system of oversight/enforcement, reflecting the shared responsibility of multiple actors to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. It was noted access to justice was very wide in scope and policy development and engagement is being broken down into separate topics to ensure the full breadth is covered. Members welcomed further opportunities to discuss access to justice at future meetings.

Members discussed the consultation and noted that the Scottish Government has committed to consulting on the Human Rights Bill in the coming year. Members were keen to offer their views on the substance of the consultation. It was emphasised that membership of the Executive Board does not inhibit individual responses to the consultation. Members also highlighted the desire for a diversity of views in response to the consultation and offered to mobilise their organisations to respond fully.

Lived experience

Joe McKeown, from the Scottish Government Bill team, provided an update to members on the proposal for a Lived Experience Board in line with recommendation 27 of the Taskforce report. It was highlighted that this engagement would be building upon engagements undertaken by the First Minister’s Advisory Group, the National Taskforce and All Our Rights in Law.

 Joe explained that the current strategy for Lived Experience engagements aimed to maximise input through working collaboratively with partners. It was also made clear that the Lived Experience Board’s feedback will be equal to the views of the Advisory and Executive Board.

Members felt the Lived Experience work was important to the development of this Bill and were keen to ensure diversity and interaction between the Boards to shape the Bill’s development. Members also offered their knowledge and experience to assist with the lived experience work.

Terms of reference

Paul Johnston highlighted a minor change that had been made to the Terms of Reference since the second meeting. The Board had asked for an addition to the Terms of Reference setting out a function of the group as a forum for collective leadership on human rights, so further detail was added on this point which members were supportive of.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission and Care Inspectorate proposed two further minor amendments to the Terms of Reference, with members agreeing the document would be agreed by correspondence before the next meeting.


It was highlighted that there has been extensive work in the background to set up policy networks and other governance structures. It is anticipated that the pace of work will begin to accelerate in the New Year as the Executive Board gets into the substance of the work.

Paul Johnston thanked attendees for their time and noted the next meeting of the Executive Board is scheduled for April 2022.

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