A Human Rights Bill for Scotland: consultation

The Scottish Government is gathering views to help inform how we will take forward the Human Rights Bill. The Bill will incorporate a range of economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law for the first time, as far as possible within the limits of devolved competence.

Ministerial Foreword

"Having your rights realised makes you feel valued as a person." - Member of Lived Experience Board

"If we get human rights implemented correctly, then there are big benefits for communities of people who have been historically denied their rights and discriminated against." - Member of Lived Experience Board

Scotland is a modern, inclusive nation which respects, protects, and fulfils all internationally recognised human rights. We have made great strides in our collective human rights journey and have committed to go further through a new Human Rights Bill that will incorporate international human rights standards already signed and ratified by the UK into domestic law in Scotland.

Embedding international human rights in Scotland will further emphasise the importance of all people being treated with dignity, and ensure that human rights play an even more central role in our strategies, policies and decision-making processes across all areas of government and the wider public sector. This consultation on the proposals for a Human Rights Bill to be introduced within this session of the Scottish Parliament seeks the views of everyone on that vision.

We have benefited from expert advice in this area. The National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership I previously
co-chaired with Professor Alan Miller set out an ambitious roadmap for incorporating international human rights standards, making sure that public bodies take a rights-based approach and improving access to justice. Our Lived Experience Board have provided deeply moving testimony of their experiences, which is shared in part throughout this consultation as a reminder of what it is we are seeking to achieve – a Bill that improves the lives of the people
of Scotland.

Scotland has a strong human rights culture, and a constitutional settlement which already embeds key civil and political rights at the heart of Scotland's democratic institutions. However, we are also constrained by the devolution settlement in how far we can go to protect rights – including fundamental economic, social, cultural and environmental rights which are not already protected in domestic law. The judgment of the UK Supreme Court on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill has brought those limitations into sharp focus.

Our existing human rights have also been threatened. Last year, the UK Government brought forward proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and to replace it with a "Bill of Rights". Whilst those proposals have not made progress at

Westminster, they further emphasise the uncertain backdrop against which weare operating.

Whilst only independence can allow us to fully incorporate all rights into domestic law, we want to use the powers we do have to enhance Scotland's human rights culture. Incorporating these internationally recognised treaties and recognising and including the right to a healthy environment within the limits of devolved competence is a necessary and important step for Scotland now to take.

By giving domestic legal effect to these standards, Scotland can ensure that focused attention on fundamental rights like health, housing and an adequate standard of living is not a political choice. This Bill will therefore help to tackle poverty and inequality, aid the delivery of a better environment for our future generations to enjoy, deliver stronger public services and improve the lives of those who are most marginalised and disadvantaged in our society.

This Bill will not deliver this step change overnight. What it will do is create a legal framework for us to embed international human rights within domestic law and drive transformative, positive change for people – empowering them to claim their rights. For human rights to truly be transformative in this way, accountability must lie at the heart of the framework. Government, public bodies, the courts and independent scrutiny bodies all have a role in ensuring human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled – so we want to build a multi-institutional approach that embeds a culture of human rights-based thinking across the public sector and puts human rights at the heart of decision-making. This will ensure better compliance with those standards from the outset and, where things have gone wrong, make it easier for people to hold duty-bearers to account.

"[What would a fairer Scotland look and feel like?]

Lots of things would be different because you would be included and people would be happy." - Member of Lived Experience Board

Incorporating these international entitlements and recognising the right to a healthy environment sends an important signal of solidarity to the global community in support of the international rule of law and the protection of rights. At a time when rights are threatened and violated around the world, divisive forces are at play and international institutions are under strain, incorporating these rights provides a beacon of hope for the future. It demonstrates Scotland's ongoing commitment to abide
by the international legal standards signed and ratified by the UK.

Building a human rights culture is the responsibility of everyone. Your views are crucial to this process, and we look forward to hearing them.

Shirley-Anne Somerville
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice


Email: HumanRightsOffice@gov.scot

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