Scottish mental health law review: our response

A response to the independent review of mental health, capacity and adult support and protection legislation, chaired by Lord John Scott KC.

Ministerial Foreword

Foreword from the Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport

Back in 2019, the then Minister for Mental Health commissioned an independent review, chaired by Lord Scott KC. Its purpose was to look at where we are and to help us to do better at enhancing the rights and protections of people subject to mental health, incapacity or adult support and protection legislation, in line with developments in international human rights standards. At the time of their enactment, this legislation was recognised as world-leading, but time moves on, and it is right that we look again, in line with our wider commitments to reducing inequality and advancing the human rights of everyone in Scotland.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank John Scott and his team for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to this process over a period of three years. I am especially grateful for the efforts that were taken to adapt to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and to continue to engage with so many stakeholders, particularly those with lived and learned experience of our mental health and capacity laws, to ensure that the report reflects their views and experiences. The final report is a substantial contribution to our understanding of human rights within the mental health system. It sets out an ambitious vision for change, a vision where the individual is firmly at the centre with a renewed emphasis on decision-making, autonomy, and support, when needed.

The Review recognised that taking forward its recommendations would be a considerable task. While some of the recommendations could be achieved without legislative reform and could start in the short term, some of the changes envisaged will require years to develop detailed legislation and address the culture change needed. Some of the proposals require further in-depth consideration about how they could work in practice. We agree that it will be a sizeable task, but we are not starting from scratch. The Review’s recommendations are strongly aligned with many existing Scottish Government commitments to advance human rights in Scotland; to change the way we provide for and meet the needs of our communities and, importantly, with the aims of our new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy with its focus on the principles of prevention and early intervention in mental health support. There are substantial opportunities to bring about the transformation that is needed. Taken together, these developments provide us with a solid foundation for change.

In responding to the Review, the Scottish Government intends to establish a new Mental Health and Capacity Reform Programme to co-ordinate and drive further change and improvement over time in line with the Review ambitions. This necessarily long-term programme will modernise our legislation to better reflect international human rights standards, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will also seek to bring about improvements across mental health services and strengthen accountability for upholding and fulfilling human rights.

Giving people a voice and control over their own lives, will be at the heart of this work. Alongside efforts to strengthen legislation over time, our initial priorities will include a focus on supporting decision-making and reducing non-consensual treatment and practices, including seclusion and restraint over time. As well as supporting improvements in policy and practice to further embed a human rights culture across mental health services.

The Review has provided us with a strong starting point, and I look forward to working, in partnership, to deliver on the aspirations it set out and to ensure that our mental health and capacity legislation continues to lead the way in respecting and fulfilling human rights while providing the necessary care and support to those who need it.

Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport



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