National Taskforce for Human Rights: leadership report

The report and recommendations of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Annex A: Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference for the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership

This information is also available at the website for the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Strategic Context

1. The Scottish Government is committed to upholding and promoting the values of an open, inclusive, diverse, tolerant and progressive democracy. Human rights are central to those values and to the vision, shared with Scottish civil society, of a Scotland where all can live with human dignity, through the realisation of internationally-recognised human rights.

2. That overarching commitment is further expressed through Scotland's refreshed National Performance Framework[1] which, for the first time, establishes an explicit National Outcome for human rights – "We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination".

3. To further support the effective implementation of Scotland's human rights obligations, the Scottish Government's programme for 2017-18[2] announced the creation of the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership[3] . The Group commenced its work in early 2018 and reported formally on Human Rights Day (10 December) 2018.

4. In responding to the Advisory Group's report[4], the First Minister welcomed the proposal for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland, to be delivered by means of an Act of the Scottish Parliament. She also endorsed the recommendation that this work should be informed by a process of public engagement, working across both the public sector and civic society. She undertook to establish a new National Taskforce to progress that work.

5. In responding to the Advisory Group's recommendations, the Scottish Government has also committed (via the 2018-19 Programme for Government[5]) to prioritise actions that can be taken to address the human rights and equality impacts of Brexit.

Purpose of the National Taskforce

6. The purpose of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership is to design and deliver detailed proposals for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland, together with the associated requirements for a public participatory process and for capacity-building initiatives. In doing so it will have particular regard to the recommendations presented in December 2018 by the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.

Remit and Functions

7. In order to achieve its Purpose, the Taskforce will exercise the following remit and functions, supported by the Executive Board:

a) Develop, agree and implement a strategic programme of work, with appropriate milestones, outputs, workstreams and contributors, so as to enable publication within the current parliamentary session of detailed proposals for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland. The Taskforce will determine the form, content and publication date of the proposals.

b) Develop and make use of appropriate structures and delivery mechanisms (e.g. working groups, reference groups, events and public-facing engagement) in order to ensure that the Taskforce's programme of work is appropriately informed by a public participatory process and that public bodies, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties are supported and enabled to participate in and contribute to the work of the Taskforce.

c) Give further consideration to, and make recommendations in relation to, the broader public participation and capacity-building actions necessary to support the effective and successful implementation (on an ongoing basis) of the proposed new statutory human rights framework, including by addressing the question of how rights-holders can be supported to know, understand and assert their rights, and how duty-bearers can ensure that they are fully compliant with their human rights obligations and are taking concerted positive action to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.

d) Examine as part of its wider work, the contribution which Scotland can make in demonstrating human rights leadership in a UK, European and global context, in particular by ensuring that lessons can be learned from the design and implementation of practical and effective delivery mechanisms which ensure that human rights commitments and obligations directly shape and improve the everyday lived experiences of all members of Scottish society.

e) Provide such other advice or recommendations to the Scottish Government as the Taskforce believes to be necessary in order to secure delivery of the overarching objective defined by its Purpose.

Further Guiding Principles and Considerations

8. The work of the Taskforce will take appropriate account of topical human rights issues and concerns, including the implications for human rights of UK withdrawal from the European Union. There is a recognised need to consider how best to protect and promote all human rights across the full range of potential post-Brexit scenarios and to address the concerns generated by ongoing uncertainty in relation to Scotland's future relationship with the European Union.

9. In its December 2018 report, the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership endorsed three key principles articulated by the Standing Council on Europe. These constitute fundamental guiding principles and will therefore help to inform the work of the Taskforce:

There should be "non-regression" from current EU rights;

There should be nobody left behind future progressive EU developments in rights.

Scotland should "take a lead" in the protection and promotion of all human rights.

10. Accordingly, as part of its work the Taskforce will give consideration to the established rights and freedoms which are currently safeguarded under European Union Law, including (in particular) those identified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It will examine whether rights of this nature should form part of a future statutory human rights framework, alongside rights which are drawn from United Nations, Council of Europe and other relevant treaties and instruments.

11. In undertaking its work the Taskforce will also consider the wider potential impacts and implications of incorporating international treaty obligations, including the relationship between democratically-elected bodies and the new statutory human rights framework, and between rights-holders and duty-bearers. This will include the extent to which incorporation might have wider structural implications, including for the relationship between the courts, the legislature and the executive.

12. The detailed proposals developed and published by the Taskforce must be capable of being implemented by an Act of the Scottish Parliament[6] and will, to that extent, need to be informed by a clear recognition of the limitations of devolved competence.

13. In line with the general principles of the devolution settlement, the Taskforce will nonetheless be free to comment or report on any matter which is pertinent to its Purpose and to the overarching requirement to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. It will therefore be for the Taskforce itself to determine whether to make reference to any specific aspect of the current constitutional settlement – for example, by suggesting potential adjustments to devolved or reserved competence should it appear that changes of this nature might better support the implementation of relevant human rights obligations in Scotland.

Status and Membership of the Taskforce

14. The Taskforce is a Scottish Government led, time-limited group, established to deliver the Purpose defined at paragraph 6 above. It will be jointly chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People and by an Independent Co-chair.

15. Members may serve in a representative capacity (attending on behalf of a particular organisation or group of organisations) or in a personal capacity (being appointed on the basis of the particular insights, experience and skills which they are able individually to bring to the work of the Taskforce).

16. The size of the Taskforce at any one time will not exceed 15 members in total, but the Taskforce may establish working groups and other sub-groups in order to pursue specific programmes of work and to carry out its functions. Working groups and other structures may be led by members of the Taskforce or by one or more individuals who are not members of the Taskforce but who have been invited by the Taskforce to undertake or lead a specified programme of work.

17. Members remain free to express views which differ from the conclusions reached collectively by the Taskforce and are encouraged to contribute actively to wider debate in relation to the realisation of human rights in Scotland, in the UK and at the international level. Organisations represented on the Taskforce are similarly free to adopt a position which differs from that of the Taskforce and to contribute to wider debate. For the avoidance of doubt, participation in the work of the Taskforce is without prejudice to the statutory independence of the National Human Rights Institutions and their compliance with the requirements of the Paris Principles[7]

Frequency of Meetings and Mode of Working

18. The frequency of meetings and mode of working will be determined by the Co-chairs, in consultation with the members of the Taskforce, with the support and advice of the Executive Board and the Programme Office, and with input from such other interested parties as the Co-chairs consider relevant.

19. As a general guide, it is expected that the Taskforce will meet at least 4 times per annum. Members are requested to attend Taskforce meetings in person. Where members do require to participate by means of telephone or video conferencing every effort will be made to facilitate this.

Reporting and Lifetime of the Group

20. The Taskforce will determine the form, content and publication date of the proposals it develops, but will be mindful of the particular symbolic significance of international Human Rights Day (10 December).

21. The Taskforce will conclude its work no later than the end of the current session of the Scottish Parliament (24 March 2021), and appointments will be made accordingly.

Executive Board and Programme Office

22. The work of the Taskforce will be supported by an Executive Board (chaired by the Senior Responsible Owner for the programme, designated by the Scottish Government) and by a Programme Office (including a Secretariat) consisting of Scottish Government officials who have been assigned specifically to support the delivery of the Taskforce's Purpose.

23. Scottish Government officials will remain accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People and the Minister for Older People and Equalities, in line with normal Civil Service arrangements. Day-to-day line management will be exercised by senior officials located within the Scottish Government's Local Government and Communities Directorate.

24. The Scottish Government will provide office accommodation and access to ICT and other support services for the Programme Office. All papers, documents and other materials developed by or on behalf of the Taskforce will be stored within the Scottish Government's electronic records and document management system.

Transparency and Information sharing

25. Transparency is a fundamental human rights principle and it is important that the work of the Taskforce is open to, and welcomes, public scrutiny. The Programme Office established to support the Taskforce will assist the Co-chairs in ensuring that information about the Taskforce's work is communicated to interested parties and is accessible to the public, for example through the development of a website, and other publication mechanisms.

26. The Programme Office will ensure that requests for information are dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs) and in a manner which implements human rights good practice. In order to assist in ensuring that requests can be responded to accurately and timeously, Taskforce members are asked to ensure that the Programme Office is copied in to all formal correspondence and exchanges of information.

Participative Process

27. The overall work of the Taskforce will be informed by a participatory process, which the Taskforce will develop and implement. It may do so by means of one or more contracts which may be fulfilled by third parties, whose direct contractual relationship will be with the Scottish Government. The award of any such contracts must comply with normal public procurement requirements.

28. The participative process will ensure that the recommendations developed by the Taskforce are underpinned by a participative and deliberative approach which reaches beyond those who already have access to power and influence in Scottish society. Human rights belong to everyone, and it is essential that voices from all walks of life and from every corner of the nation are heard.

29. In order to support its work, the Taskforce, with the support of the Executive Board may consider the establishment of other engagement mechanisms, bringing together individuals drawn from across Scottish society and mobilising, in particular, the knowledge and expertise which resides within civil society and the public, private and third sectors.

Scottish Government
November 2019



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