It is impossible to comment on this global pandemic without first expressing our condolences to those who have lost loved ones and our solidarity with those facing misery, financial hardship and those fearful of going to work and being at work every single day.
Responding to the COVID-19 emergency has raised issues which impact on human rights: the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to be safe, the right to respect for private and family life and the right to liberty. When agreeing solutions, a sensible approach is to apply three tests: is it lawful, is it a proportionate response and is your proposed course of action reasonable in all the circumstances? Of course, such an approach to balanced decision making requires knowledge of human rights and having all the information available to make fair decisions.
Interest in and applying human rights on everyday issues has, arguably, never been greater in Scotland. The interest is not just about civil and political rights but economic, social, cultural and environmental rights too eg the right to food, to a basic income and to education. Community responses to ensure people are cared for, eat and can chat prove Scotland’s rich seam of human rights defenders in action. The immediate opportunity as well as in the longer term is to turn family, social and community discussions and action into a broader application of and support for making Scotland a human rights respecting country.
Problems require us to stretch and to paraphrase Horace ‘adversity reveals genius’. Being able to evidence the human rights logic of your decision-making process helps to secure buy in from staff and stakeholders and fits the Scottish Government ask of delivering ‘human rights leadership’ in publicly funded services. The deadly nature of the virus and the consequences of an enforced lockdown have brought misery but also a shared objective of recovering better. Mainstreaming human rights across publicly funded service could be a legacy which would prove it is no longer ‘business as usual’.