International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: position statement

This position statement sets out the action we've taken in devolved areas to implement the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Implementation of ICESCR in Scotland – Overview

11. The Scottish Government is committed to creating a modern, inclusive Scotland which protects, respects and realises internationally recognised human rights. Within the limits of the current constitutional settlement established by the Scotland Act 1998, Scotland's devolved institutions play a key role in implementing and upholding human rights standards.

12. In those areas where Scotland already has powers to make legislation and to decide policy, the approach we have taken is distinctive and founded firmly in our commitment to progressive values. The Scottish Government works to embed and deliver the wider international human rights framework, which includes an array of UN and Council of Europe (CoE) treaties and conventions.

13. The Scottish Government's formally defined Purpose is "to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth". This purpose is measured by our National Performance Framework, which contains 11 National Outcomes and 81 National Indictors. The Human Rights National Outcome establishes the requirement that "we respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination". All of the other National Outcomes are also of human rights relevance, either directly (by addressing specific substantive aspects of Scotland's human rights obligations) or indirectly (by ensuring that the right conditions exist to support and promote realisation of internationally-recognised human rights). Progress is reported annually and published on the Scottish Government website.

14. Equality and non-discrimination are also a central theme of Scottish Government policies and operational delivery. Our ambition for Scotland embraces the principles of equality, fairness and social justice and these are at the heart of the NPF's vision for Scotland. We stand together to challenge unfairness and our equality legislation, law and practice are world leading. We uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and our justice systems are proportionate, fair and effective. Equality is integral to delivery on our purpose of sustainable economic growth, to the public service reform agenda and to the increasing shift to preventative policies and services aimed at reducing inequalities. We collect, analyse and publish equality data, broken down by protected characteristics, on the National Indicators using our Equality Evidence Finder.

15. In relation to fair work, the Scottish Government remains strongly opposed to the unnecessary and heavy-handed restrictions imposed by the UK Government Trade Union Act 2016. Our approach in Scotland is instead to promote strong trade unions and an effective voice for workers. Doing so supports the delivery of our economic and fair work ambitions. The Scottish Government is absolutely opposed to the practice of blacklisting trade union members.

16. Whilst social security remains for the most part reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is committed to creating a more equal society, and is utilising the powers of welfare to ensure that all our people living in Scotland receive fair and decent support so far as possible within the devolved settlement. This includes taking a long term, preventative approach to tackling poverty across Scotland.

17. The Scottish Government remains committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC as far as possible within devolved competence and the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can, and is, continuing. When enacted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill would incorporate the UNCRC and Optional Protocols 1 and 2[3] directly into Scots law within the limits of devolved competence. The Bill would provide that public authorities, including health boards and councils, and the Scottish Government itself, would be legally obliged to respect the UNCRC requirements, as set out in the Bill. If they do not, children, young people and their representatives would be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.

18. Between 2021 and 2024, the Scottish Government is continuing to take forward its three year implementation programme to deliver a fundamental shift in the way children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland. The Financial Memorandum to the Billsets out the high level plan for the three year implementation programme covering three strands which have been further developed and expanded into four. Actions in relation to these strands were included in the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2021 to 2024.

19. The Scottish Government is implementing a national food and drink policy that seeks to address issues of quality, health and wellbeing, and environmental sustainability whilst recognising the need for access and affordability. On housing, the Housing to 2040 strategy sets out our vision for housing from 2021 to 2040, and the steps required to make that a reality. Effective supply, choice and quality are our key priorities for homes that are warm, safe, affordable and energy-efficient.

20. The Scottish Government is also working to help people sustain and improve mental and physical health, particularly in disadvantaged communities, by ensuring better, local and faster access to healthcare.

21. In terms of education, we are committed to ensuring that every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed in education, regardless of their background. We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential and achieve their aspirations and goals. To help achieve this we are investing £1 billion through the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge programme in this parliament.

22. Finally, we believe that supporting our creative communities, while creating the conditions to allow for meaningful access and participation, will enrich our lives, enhance our learning and strengthen both our society and our economy.



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