Human Rights Bill: Core Implementation Working Group minutes - December 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 5 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • ​​​​​​Bill Stevenson, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Brianna Fletcher, COSLA
  • George Dodds, Public Health Scotland
  • Hyo Eun Shin, CAS
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Megan Moffat, WCS
  • Mhairi Snowden, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Neill Clark, EASS
  • Rachel Grant and Nicola Anderson, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service
  • Rebecca Spillane, Improvement Service
  • Rhona Wilder, SIAA
  • Tony McGowan, Healthcare Improvement Scotland


  • Professor Alan Miller, Strathclyde University
  • Dr Elaine Webster, University of Strathclyde
  • Gordon MacRae, Shelter
  • Jan Savage, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Jillian Matthew, Audit Scotland
  • Lesley Crozier, Scottish Council Equality Network Chair
  • Professor Nicole Busby, University of Glasgow
  • Rachel Grant, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Sarah Rodger, Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland
  • Scott Stewart, Disability Information Scotland
  • Siobhan Toner, Social Security Scotland          

Items and actions


Kavita Chetty welcomed members to the meeting and noted some guests were joining this meeting to share their expertise of advice and advocacy. Information on the background, aims and purpose of the Implementation Working Group (IWG) were shared with guests.

Apologies were noted, and members were asked to contact the Human Rights Office by Friday 8 December if they had any amendments to previous minutes. It was highlighted that the Wider Engagement Group met on 30 November to discuss the planning and reporting duty, where similar feedback to the core group’s feedback in October was received. A minute from this meeting has been recorded and will be shared online in early 2024 on the new Scottish Government webpage for the Implementation Working Group. Please contact for any corrections or queries.

Lived Experience Board

The Bill Team presented the views of the Lived Experience Board’s (LEB) on signposting, advice and advocacy. A common theme throughout feedback from the three groups who made up the LEB was the need to ensure that awareness raising and accessibility measures are built into the implementation of the Bill.

It was flagged that advice and advocacy were key themes in the Human Rights Consortium-led LEB group. The importance of people having an awareness of rights and being able to access information on where and how to report issues and seek remedy was flagged. The positive impact of advocacy in supporting rights holders during complaints process was highlighted, and it was noted that where complainants are not supported by an advocate, this can result in a feeling of isolation.

Reflections on views heard to date on advocacy, advice and signposting

The Bill Team provided some context to the different types of advocacy and advice, as well as definitions for each topic, before discussing the proposals and questions set out in the consultation on advocacy, advice and signposting. They then shared some key points and themes which have been identified by early reviews of consultation responses.

Access to advocacy

Some respondents called for a universal right to advocacy on the face of the Bill whilst others highlighted that advocacy should be targeted at certain groups of people and those whose “rights are most at risk.” Some groups and people highlighted as benefitting from advocacy were people impacted by prison, people living in poverty, people who experience housing issues and care experienced adults who do not currently have access to advocacy services.


Resource came up in many responses to this question. Respondents highlighted that this does not only equate to funding but also the provision of adequate training and capacity building for service providers. It was noted number of advocacy services in Scotland are provided by charities, who have highlighted issues with resourcing and capacity, as well as over-reliance on volunteers.

Human Rights Scheme

Some respondents mentioned that Ministers could be required to provide an update on action planned and taken, as well as resources provided to support advocacy services, via the Human Rights Scheme reporting.  

Service coverage

We heard from the Lived Experience Board that currently, service coverage can be geographically inconsistent and, in some cases, there is a rural/urban divide where people seeking advocacy services in more rural and remote areas outside of the central belt can struggle to access services, and have to rely on the goodwill and sometimes limited expertise of volunteers.  

Definition of advocacy and advice

Responses called for a clear definition for both advocacy and advice. Public bodies highlighted that this could make it easier for them to understand their obligations in making these supports available to rights-holders.


Discussion questions were posed to members and provided below is a list of key points raised by members.

Access to advice and advocacy

Access to advice and advocacy is important to successful implementation of the Bill. Thought should be given to where rights holders can access advice and advocacy services related to the Bill. Members suggested our approach should focus on strengthening advice and advocacy services that already exist, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau rather than creating new services.  There was general agreement that a one size fits all approach would not be effective and inclusive communications are essential to ensure it can meet user needs.

Digital services

A recognition that while digital services are beneficial to some groups, such as rural communities (given the lower concentration of advice and advocacy services available), this can risk digital exclusion.

Distinction between advocacy and advice 

Different types of advocacy and advice, and the distinctions between both were discussed. It was felt that collective advocacy can be beneficial in resolving structural issues, whereas independent advocacy could be more effective when resolving individual complaints. It was highlighted by one member that in practice, processes can be somewhat fluid between advice and advocacy, if taking a person-centric approach. Other members felt that advice and advocacy are very different and should be recognised as distinct, where advocacy is independent and also focussed on supporting the voice of the individual.

Resources, funding and capacity building

Concerns were raised about the funding and sustainability of advocacy providers, with the Human Rights Bill likely to create requirements for additional training and capacity building to ensure that public authorities can meet duties. Members noted that advocacy providers are often funded on a short term basis and this means that their sustainability is vulnerable, with a high staff turnover that can lead to a loss of expertise. There was a suggestion that existing structures could be built on, with additional resources, and improved instead of re-inventing the wheel.

Alignment with ongoing work

Ongoing work across the Scottish Government and wider public sector was flagged, including the National Care Service work. To reduce complexity there should be alignment for those implementing a range of duties and legislation. Officials noted connections were being made and discussions were taking place to align work.

Public awareness of rights and services

The relationship between information and awareness raising, and advocacy and advice was flagged. Ways to provide information were discussed - drawing on the advice of the Lived Experience Boards. It was noted that where advocacy services are available and advertised there is often high uptake, but issues such as long waiting times and insufficient or finite resources can deter the advertising of services. It was suggested by members that public awareness raising of rights could form part of proposed Human Rights Scheme.

International examples 

International examples the Scottish Government could look at were highlighted. This included South Africa’s Public Protector’s Office - which can provide both general advice and legal advice, as well as Columbia’s Ombudsman - which receives complaints and has specific powers to give advice before a complaint is made. Internationally, further examples were highlighted wherein National Human Rights Institutions can provide advice.

Participation role for advocacy

While there was a recognition that advocacy is predominantly used to resolve issues, it was noted that there is a forward-looking element to advocacy in relation to participation in decision making. For example advocacy services could help rights holders to become involved in designing services, which could benefit from the learning of lived experience, thereby reducing future issues and preventing rights violations.  

Any other business

Members and guests were thanked for their input during the meeting. It was noted that the next meeting of Core IWG is scheduled for 8 February 2024.

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