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Momentum for Change?

Opportunities for Human Rights in Scotland

Towards the end of 2018, two major reports were published that should set the direction for the promotion, delivery and enforcement of human rights in Scotland over the next decade. 40 recommendations were made in ‘Human Rights and the Scottish Parliament’ published by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and seven in ‘Recommendations for a new human rights framework to improve people’s lives’, published by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.

The conclusions from both reports mean the current attitude of ‘business as usual’ on compliance with human rights law is no longer tenable. Something has to happen although both reports realise that building knowledge and capacity are the key, first steps to enabling informed and progressive change.

How duty bearers and rights holders respond across Scotland will determine the nature and pace of reform. Both share an interest in ensuring that human rights now explicitly inform the design, delivery and funding of public services and services of a public nature.

So what are the key points? Too many for this Blog but:

As we go forward, rather than staying still or reversing what progress has been made on human rights, let’s hope in 2019 we can each see signs that human rights are more visible for those who use and work in services funded by the public purse.

Human rights Chill Time

Take the time to think about human rights and how they impact on you as a human being, and also in your role at work whether you are employed in the public, Third or private sectors.

Human rights very often get a bad reputation for being too complex, irrelevant to the lives of ordinary people and of little practical use.  In Scotland there is certainly a gap between high level political commitments and people’s day to day experiences.  Fortunately there are several positive developments that create opportunities for civil society and the public sector to mainstream human rights across devolved functions in Scotland including health, housing and education.

In 2016 the Scottish Parliament decided to add a specific human rights remit to a Committee so we now have an Equalities and Human Rights Committee.  The Committee has a programme of work that includes holding an Inquiry on human rights and the Scottish Parliament.  This is a major development as practice will change if the bodies funded by the Scottish Government and held to account by the Parliament, begin to mainstream human rights in their systems, processes and impact assessments.  Importantly, scrutiny of budgets for the impact on human rights will inform and influence decision making to create a fairer Scotland.

Visit the Committee page to learn more about the progress of its Inquiry http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/Equalities-Committee.aspx

Another development to monitor for impact is the introduction of the social and economic duty which has been re-branded as the ‘Fairer Scotland Duty’.  The interim Guidance was published on 27th March 2018, becomes effective in April 2018 and covers a 3 year implementation phase. It places a legal responsibility on particular public bodies in Scotland to actively consider (pay due regard to) how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socioeconomic disadvantage.   Its implementation will be monitored and regulated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).    Visit the Scottish Government website to learn more about the Duty http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00533417.pdf