Foreword by Shirley-Anne Somerville,
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Co-Chair of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership
I am delighted to present this comprehensive Report which is the culmination of the work of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership since October 2019. The development of this report, and the extensive work that underpins it, has required the dedication and persistence of many, during particularly challenging circumstances. Consequently, the Taskforce has had to be innovative in its work, especially in relation to ensuring thorough engagement and effective collaboration with an extensive range of stakeholders across the breadth of the country. And the report is all the better for it.
First and foremost, this report allows us an opportunity to recognise and celebrate how much progress has been made on human rights in Scotland. The recommendations ensure Scotland is an international leader in respecting and enhancing human rights. However, more can and must be done to better realise our ambition of being a global human rights leader and ensuring that the policies and decisions we make are shaped by a sound understanding of equality and human rights. To that end, the pioneering approach set out in this report has been recognised and supported by representatives of the United Nations.
The report outlines a wide range of bold and ambitious policy objectives and recommendations for the new framework that will set out for the first time, and in the one place, rights belonging to everyone in Scotland. There is no doubt that these recommendations present a big challenge to the government – to build on and accelerate the progress we have already made on human rights through this radical, new statutory framework. Undoubtedly, developing and implementing a framework of this nature will be complex and there are some aspects which we will require to give particularly careful consideration to if we are to do it justice. However, it is vital we are not complacent and continue to push ourselves to do more to ensure human rights are embedded in everything we do.
Crucially, our engagement has shown there is a strong shared ambition for human rights in Scotland and the role this new legislation will play in helping to fulfil that. This means that we will have help from a wide range of experts and partners as we navigate this new terrain. However, we know that government action by itself cannot bring about the kind of change we need to see. To fully realise the policy aspirations in this report will require a collective effort, from across the public sector and civil society, and this is vital to ensuring that we leave no one behind.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of the Taskforce, Working Group and Academic Advisory Panel for their huge commitment to this work and their steadfast advice and support. I would also like to thank my Co-Chair, Professor Alan Miller, for his unwavering vision which was integral to the Taskforce's success. My thanks also extend to our wider stakeholders across the length and breadth of the country who have enthusiastically engaged in this work and provided support throughout the process. We need to ensure our work on human rights makes a difference, helping people and communities to live with dignity wherever they are in Scotland, and whatever their circumstances.