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New Human Rights law plans revealed


Campaigners have welcomed plans to strengthen human rights in Scotland

Plans for a new Human Rights law in Scotland have been revealed.

The Scottish Government has unveiled plans for a new bill, which it says will introduce world-leading human rights legislation.

Subject to the outcome of the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election, a new Human Rights Bill will incorporate four United Nations Human Rights treaties into Scots Law, including legislation that enhances human rights for women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities.

The treaties that will be incorporated are: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; 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); and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The bill has been prepared on the back of 30 recommendations made by the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership. All the recommendations have been accepted by the Scottish Government including measures which will, for the first time, improve equality and human rights on an environmental, social, economic and cultural scale.

The plans have been welcomed by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland.

Mhairi Snowden, director of the consortium, said: “This is a really big day for human rights in Scotland! Putting all of our human rights into law will be a vital step towards making them a reality for everyone. 

"Together with the UNCRC children’s rights bill due to pass next week, Scotland is on a progressive human rights journey. This is something that we can all celebrate and welcome, especially in light of our experience of Covid-19 where rights have been so clearly infringed.

This is also in stark contrast to human rights law reviews at UK level that threaten to water down government accountability on human rights. We need more human rights law protections, not less.

"The taskforce was informed by many civil society organisations, as well as engagement by over 400 individuals.  Across all of these discussions, the message was clear – put all of our international human rights direct into our law. People also said that we need to do all we can to make sure that this law has teeth and that it brings change.

"It is really important that this new bill and how it is implemented is informed at every stage by civil society and by people’s everyday experiences. We’ll be doing all that we can to keep on working with our members to make sure that this is the case.”

Judith Robertson, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and member of the national taskforce, said: “Today’s taskforce recommendations, and the Scottish Government’s commitment to implement them, represent a major milestone for human rights in Scotland. This marks the beginning of a vital new era for all of our rights.

“The commission and others have been advocating and laying the groundwork for this move for over a decade. We are delighted to see such a significant step towards achieving stronger implementation and legal protection for people’s rights in Scotland.

“There is now a real, positive opportunity for Scotland to build a human rights culture that puts people’s voices and rights at its heart. A new bill creates an opportunity to both embed human rights into decision making and to secure better access to justice when things go wrong.”

Equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “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.”

Professor Alan Miller, who co-chaired the taskforce with Somerville, 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, put in a single place the range of internationally recognised human rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental – which belong to everyone.”



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