National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership: agenda and minutes - 10 March 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership on the 10 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville - Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People
  • Professor Alan Miller – Independent Co-Chair
  • Claire Sweeney – Public Health Scotland
  • Murray Hunt - Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
  • Fiona Killen - Law Society of Scotland
  • Professor Elisa Morgera – Co-Director of Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance
  • Nils Muižnieks – Former Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
  • Cllr Kelly Parry – COSLA
  • Judith Robertson - Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mhairi Snowden - Co-ordinator, Human Rights Consortium Scotland

Guest Attendees:

  • Lynn Welsh - Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Mirren Kelly – COSLA
  • Michael Clancy – Law Society of Scotland

Scottish Government Attendees:

  • Madhu Malhotra – Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights
  • Elisabeth Campbell – Strategic Lead, Human Rights
  • Cristina Dello Sterpaio – Human Rights Taskforce Team Leader
  • Joseph McKeown – Secretariat to the National Taskforce
  • Ciar Nixon – Secretariat to the National Taskforce
  • Fraser Meechan – Secretariat to the National Taskforce
  • Afson Barekat – Head of Rights Branch, Scottish Government Legal Directorate (SGLD)
  • Julia McCombie – Bill Team Joint Head
  • Gill McCrum – Bill Team Joint Head
  • Jane McAteer – Bill Team
  • Dan Garraghan – Bill Team
  • Emily Hines – Bill Team
  • Alice Greig – Bill Team
  • Stuart McLean – Private Office
  • Lauren Jefferies – Private Office

Items and actions

Welcome and pre-cleared papers

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed attendees to the final meeting of the Taskforce. He also thanked attendees for their pre-clearance of the action log and minutes of the previous meeting. 

Discussion on Taskforce Report

The Cabinet Secretary handed over to Professor Miller to lead the discussion on the report. He noted his pleasure in seeing the production of the finalised version of the report, and thanked the attendees for their attendances at Taskforce, Working Group, Sub-Group, Reference Group and Roundtable meetings. He noted how beneficial he found the respectful and productive discussions that had taken place, and that the evidence-based participatory and collaborative process had been a joy to see, noting that there were very important lessons that could be learnt from this. 

He noted his thanks to the Scottish Government, particularly the Bill Team, SGLD, and Programme Office for supporting the work of the taskforce so effectively. It was acknowledged that this was the biggest step forward in Scotland’s human rights journey. 

Judith Robertson noted how pleased she was with the process, and the progress that has been made, both on behalf of herself and the SHRC, and how keen she was going forward on a conversation with regards to the lessons learnt, and share perspectives in a constructive and positive way.

Claire Sweeney echoed comments, and offered her thanks to everyone involved, and noted particularly her appreciation of the work that Professor Miller had put into the process, and how available he made himself for discussion and collaborative work. 

Mhairi Snowden noted her level of anticipation for the report being released, adding that there had been great general interest from the public in when the report is to be released. She also noted that the majority of the work of the Taskforce had taken place throughout the COVID pandemic, and that they had achieved great things even with such constraints. She also noted her keenness to be involved in the participatory process going forward, and noted that HRCS would be engaging with their stakeholders to see if they had thoughts on the report, and how their engagement contributed. 

The Cabinet Secretary noted that she felt it was remarkable how well the Taskforce had adapted to the events of the past year, and still commit throughout to collaborative work, with an emphasis on public engagement. She paid particular note to the flexibility and ingenuity of all involved. She echoed the thanks directed towards Professor Miller, and his drive and enthusiasm to making the process work, and that this should be recognised, in addition to his career’s work on human rights. 

The Cabinet Secretary noted as well her appreciation of the commitment by the Minister for Older People and Equalities as well. 

The Cabinet Secretary also echoed thanks and appreciation to the SG officials, and their adaptability to the changed world of working from home. 

The Cabinet Secretary then noted that she viewed the work of the Taskforce as one of the central events of her work as Cabinet Secretary, and noted that she felt that this was a great chance to make lasting difference, and help Scotland lead the world in human rights. 

Murray Hunt added his congratulations to everyone and noted his thanks for the opportunity to be part of such an impressive and important process, noting that one of the lessons the world can learn is how to conduct this sort of exercise. He noted that, from the idea of having co-chairs to combine the necessary political will with genuine independent expertise, through having SG officials so closely involved, to the inclusive and participatory nature of the process, the Taskforce process has been a model of its kind and that he felt Scotland should not be shy of showing the world how to lead a process of this nature. 


The Cabinet Secretary began by noting the importance of making rights-holders aware of the report. She introduced Cristina from Programme Office to lead discussion on the publication and communications handling plan. 

Cristina noted the two main aspects of promotion – media and stakeholder engagement. She highlighted the key times in the publication schedule. She then noted that there would be links to other reports embedded in the publication, as well as a comprehensive communication plan cross-linking to existing work. 

She asked attendees to inform Programme Office if they felt that any contacts could be added to the discussion on communications. 

Mhairi added that the All our Rights in Law report would be published on Friday March 12th, as well as the HRCS producing a short film with BSL addition in order to share wider. Programme Office noted that the Easy-Read version of the report would follow in upcoming weeks.

Nils Muižnieks asked a question around international promotion, to which Cristina asked that TF members let Programme Office know if they will be engaging with communications, in order to help keep track of various discussions.

Claire Sweeney noted that Public Health Scotland had a lot planned with regards to communications, and aimed to weave this in tightly to their work on COVID.

Judith Robertson noted that she was speaking to the Global Alliance of Human Rights Institutions, and noted that they would be keen to promote the report within these circles.

Next Steps

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the extent of work on the Report meant that officials did not yet have a concrete proposal on the next steps for stakeholder engagement in relation to the Bill development but noted that it would be the SG’s intention to have continued input from TF members, though not in the TF format.. 

Professor Miller echoed the points made by the Cabinet Secretary, noting that keeping the momentum, vision, and collaborative process was essential. He noted that officials and Taskforce members could have these discussions in the pre-election period. 

Judith Robertson noted that she would appreciate a group-based approach going forward, but that if this was difficult to manage, then that would be understandable. Claire Sweeney echoed this, and added that she recognised that something to boost the process at the start would be appreciated. 

The Cabinet Secretary noted that time had been taken to share the work of the Taskforce with Cabinet, and noted that they would have the responsibility to ensure that the work was continued, and that they had noted positive engagement with it. 

Closing Remarks

The Cabinet Secretary noted that this was the final agenda item in the final Taskforce meeting. She reiterated her thanks to Professor Miller, noting that it had been a pleasure to co-chair the Taskforce with him.

Professor Miller noted how remarkable Scotland’s increasing confidence in its internationalist approach to human rights leadership, and noted the progress that had been made since devolution. He talked through his experience throughout the process of developing human rights in Scotland from pre-devolution to the present, and noted that the UK’s exit from the EU, and the COVID pandemic, had put human rights to the forefront. He concluded that this was not the ending, but the establishment of a basis for progress, and that the next steps were reaching out in front of them, with more voices to be heard, and more work to be done. 

Back to top