Scottish Government Taskforce, co-chaired by Strathclyde Professor, makes 30 recommendations for a new human rights framework

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A Scottish Government National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, co-chaired by a Strathclyde Professor, has made 30 recommendations to introduce a new human rights framework for Scotland.

The Taskforce, co-chaired by Professor Alan Miller and Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, which also included Strathclyde’s Professor Elisa Morgera as a member and Dr Elaine Webster on the Taskforce’s Advisory Panel, was established in early 2019.

Its task was to set out a new statutory framework to bring internationally recognised human rights into domestic law following Brexit which was understood to have weakened the present framework of human rights and social protections and which gave impetus to the need of a new framework.  

Bold and ambitious

In a newly-published report the Taskforce makes a total of 30 recommendations which have been accepted by the Scottish Government.

Dependent upon the outcome of the Scottish general election in May the government will introduce in the next session of the Parliament a Bill to introduce the new framework.

It will introduce the internationally recognised rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food and housing, the right to a healthy environment, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to social security and the right to take part in cultural life.

In response to the Covid crisis, the UN has called for all countries to cooperate and prioritise human rights as a vital part of all efforts to “build back better” from the pandemic.

The UN treaties to be incorporated are:

  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Taskforce Co-Chair Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, said: “These recommendations from the taskforce are bold and ambitious. A multi-treaty human rights Bill of this nature, that will also contain a range of others rights on the environment, older people, and access to justice, is unprecedented and will make Scotland a world leader in human rights.

“This new Bill sets out our clear commitment to reducing inequality and advancing the human rights of everyone. It shows our dedication to go further and aim higher to ensure human rights are embedded in every aspect of life in Scotland.

“This ground-breaking human rights framework is going to make a difference, helping people and communities to live with dignity wherever they are in Scotland, and whatever their circumstances.”

Biggest step

Professor Miller, Professor of Practice in Human Rights Law, said: “Scotland has become increasingly confident and internationalist throughout the past twenty years of devolution and this set of recommendations clearly shows the next step on its human rights journey.

Our recommendations are challenging, ambitious and will need continued bold leadership to implement. It would be by far the biggest step taken in Scotland’s human rights journey.

"This proposed new framework would, for the first time, bring into our law and put in a single place the range of internationally recognised human rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental – which belong to everyone.”

According to the UN, efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which are underpinned by human rights, has become even more critical.

All countries are required to learn lessons and improve the economic and social security of everyone, end the interference with the natural environment which has caused the pandemic and urgently address the underlying climate crisis.

The recommended new framework is designed to enable Scotland to rise to this challenge.

Learning the lessons from the pandemic and recognising the need to ensure that nobody is left behind in Scotland’s recovery the recommendations include specific rights for women, children, disabled and minority ethnic people, older people and LGBTI people.