National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership: agenda and minutes - 27 October 2020

Agenda for the October 2020 meeting of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Attendees and apologies

Taskforce attendees:

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People 
  • Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities
  • Professor Alan Miller, Independent Co-Chair 
  • Alastair Pringle, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Fiona Killen, Law Society of Scotland
  • Judith Robertson, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mhairi Snowden, Co-ordinator, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Murray Hunt, Barrister specialising in Human Rights, and Legal Adviser to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law 
  • Claire Sweeney, Public Health Scotland
  • Cllr Kelly Parry, COSLA

Guest attendees:

  • Kavita Chetty, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Professor Nicole Busby, Academic Advisory Panel
  • Dr Katie Boyle, Academic Advisory Panel

Scottish Government attendees:

  • Elisabeth Campbell, Strategic Lead, Human Rights
  • Cristina Dello Sterpaio, Human Rights Taskforce Team Leader
  • Ciar Nixon, Secretariat to the National Taskforce
  • Fraser Meechan, Secretariat to the National Taskforce
  • Dan Garraghan, Bill Team
  • Emily Hines, Bill Team
  • Alice Greig, Bill Team
  • Afson Barekat, Head of Rights Branch, Scottish Government Legal Directorate (SGLD)
  • Victoria Morton, SGLD 
  • Ben Gaston, SGLD 


  • Nils Muižnieks, Former Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
  • Michael Clancy, Law Society Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and pre-cleared papers

The Cabinet Secretary started the meeting and thanked Taskforce members for their attendance, and for clearance of papers prior to the meeting. The Cabinet Secretary noted a suggestion for some minor changes to be made to the communication and engagement plan, which will be reviewed prior to the next Taskforce meeting. 

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed Professor Busby from the Academic Advisory Panel (AAP), noting that she was looking forward to the additional AAP papers that are anticipated to be completed at the end of October.

The Cabinet Secretary finished introductions by noting that she was excited to hear more about engagement Taskforce members have been undertaking, and the upcoming plans members have to continue the engagement programme in the autumn.

Public engagement

Professor Miller noted as per the Programme for Government commitments the Taskforce will be working to deliver a radical blueprint for human rights legislation covering areas of devolved responsibility. This will include how best to take forward the commitment to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into domestic legislation and consideration is being given to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). An update was provided on the work being done by the Taskforce to take forward this work.

Professor Miller provided an update on ongoing engagement with political stakeholders, devolved administrations, and the Scottish Parliament, noting that engagement had been positive towards the Taskforce’s work, welcoming the initiative and looking to open channels of cooperation with the work of the Taskforce.

Mhairi Snowden gave a brief update on the rights-holder engagement project that the Human Rights Consortium and Scottish Human Rights Commission are working on together. It was noted there had been a very positive initial response, with training sessions being developed and guidance provided to potential facilitators that are keen to host their own meetings to discuss human rights. It was noted that all feedback would be collated and emerging messages and themes would be shared with the Taskforce. Taskforce members agreed that this was a very positive update and they were looking forward to hearing more in due course – it was agreed that this would become a standing agenda item for future Taskforce meetings.

Professor Miller thanked all involved for their assistance in carrying out the summer round of engagement and gave a brief summary of the central points from his findings. He noted the following as being his two key findings:

  • he noted a strong breadth of support and ambition of the new Human Rights framework in Scotland
  • he also noted a clear sense from all attendees that effective implementation and a grounding in realism are essential if the framework is to make real improvements to people’s lives

Professor Miller then noted that his findings are being used to develop future public engagement which will aim to be more targeted and focussed in its questions to inform decision-making. The proposals for the second phase of public engagement were discussed among Taskforce members and consensus was reached on the proposed route forward.

Members discussed the upcoming working group meetings and agreed it would be valuable to engage with Scottish government officials about the UNCRC Bill at the Working Group meeting scheduled for 24 November 2020, to discuss what lessons have been learned. 

Members highlighted their support for the principles of non-regression of rights, keeping pace, and being a world leader, but also recognised that recommendations will be made within the context of devolution. 

Taskforce members noted that further work is required on a timetable of dates for decision-making, and asked that it include sessions to discuss the issues, followed later by a deadline for the decisions, allowing time in between to reflect, gather information, and consult.

Access to Justice was a key principle discussed by participants, with it being stressed that the Taskforce should consider the whole process from route to remedy and should consult key stakeholders throughout the process to remedy, as the courts should be the last resort.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that she is keen to ensure that the Taskforce has time to discuss, and make, decisions in a timely manner. She noted that she is in favour of Taskforce colleagues thinking on what they want to achieve from the framework in regards to overall policy outcomes, as opposed to focussing on specific legislative approaches. The Cabinet Secretary noted that she wanted Taskforce members to propose the key policy objectives they hoped to achieve through the legislation, and Scottish Government officials would focus on how best to implement that. 

Presentation from Professor Nicole Busby on upcoming Academic Advisory Panel Papers

Professor Miller welcomed Professor Busby, and extended his thanks on behalf of the Taskforce to the AAP members for their commitment to producing important work, and noted that he is looking forward to the new papers.

Professor Busby noted that she intended the new papers to supplement her previous paper on CEDAW incorporation and the Equality Clause, and to discuss incorporation of UNCRPD and CERD, along with equivalent rights provision for LGBTI+ and older people. 

Professor Busby noted the key points she intended to include in her upcoming papers and advised these papers will be made available to Taskforce members in the coming weeks.

Members were in agreement with the framework being developed in conjunction with members of civil society, as well as duty-bearers and were keen to build this into discussion on the decision-making timetable, specifically regarding having rights-holders and duty-bearers co-producing the guidance. 

Access to Justice Paper by Dr Katie Boyle

Dr Katie Boyle provided a summary and presentation on her AAP paper on Access to Justice for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and discussed incorporation models, how the framework is designed to operate, from framework to remedies, and ways to meet rights.

Dr Katie Boyle summed up the salient points made in her paper and took questions on the paper from Taskforce members. 

It was agreed Taskforce members would identify questions for discussion regarding Dr Boyle’s paper on access to justice and send them to the Programme Office by 11 November to continue the development of this work. In addition, it was agreed there would be more discussion on these papers at the next Working Group meeting.


The attendees noted the upcoming Human Rights Day on December 10th, and International Migrants Day on December 18th and a discussion took place among members on how their organisations planned to mark these key dates. 

It was noted that Programme Office would share details of next meetings in due course. The Cabinet Secretary thanked the AAP members for their papers and for their participation in the meeting, and all attendees for their continued engagement in the process.

NTHRL - 27 October 2020 - agenda
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