I am delighted to present the Scottish Government’s position statement for the UK’s fourth Universal Periodic Review cycle.
The UK’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review process as the UN Member State provides an opportunity for the Scottish Government to publicly account for the measures we have taken to give effect to the full range of our international human rights obligations. This position statement therefore sets out the action that we have taken in devolved areas since the start of the UK’s last Universal Periodic Review cycle in 2017 to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of everyone in Scotland.
Over the last five years, the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing cost of living crisis have demonstrated the urgent need for human rights to be embedded at the heart of everything that we do, and the importance of engaging fully and in good faith with international human rights monitoring bodies.
As the Minister with overall responsibility for human rights policy, I whole-heartedly welcome scrutiny of our record in this area. Indeed, over the course of the UK’s last Universal Periodic Review cycle, the Scottish Government has proudly engaged with international treaty bodies, UN Special Rapporteurs, and other international scrutiny processes to present the whole of Scotland’s human rights journey – the progress we’ve made, and the work we’ve still got to do.
This position statement comes at a time when there is a clear divergence in the approaches taken by the Scottish Government and the UK Government towards domestic legal human rights protections.
I am acutely concerned about the UK Government’s proposals to reform the Human Rights Act, which continue to present a very real threat to the human rights safeguards that have protected our most fundamental rights and freedoms for the last 20 years. These proposals stand in stark contrast to the Scottish Government’s own plans for legislation to incorporate further human rights treaties into domestic law, subject to devolved competence, which will strengthen our domestic human rights protections.
It is my firm belief that as a modern, progressive nation, it is incumbent on us to demonstrate leadership on human rights.
That leadership necessarily requires us to listen to others, to learn from international best practice, and to respond constructively to the challenge that we receive – from international bodies like the UN Human Rights Council, and from Scotland’s vibrant civil society, the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions, and Members of the Scottish Parliament.
Making rights real for people in Scotland will always be a joint effort, and our collective human rights agenda is progressive and ambitious. We must always strive to do more and to do better to ensure that the rights of all people are respected, protected, and fulfilled.
I believe that the progress and ambition set out in the pages of this position statement presents a record of which Scotland can be genuinely proud.
Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People
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