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Let’s take action to make rights real

This opinion piece is over 1 year old

Scotland’s second national human rights action plan (SNAP 2) has launched, and it’s a chance to deliver meaningful change for everyone in Scotland says Lucy Mulvagh, the outgoing SNAP Secretariat Lead

It’s probably an understatement to say I’m a passionate advocate for human rights. So I jumped at the chance to help develop Scotland’s next human rights action plan, known as SNAP 2. Since late 2021, this has included creating and running an independent secretariat, and supporting the SNAP Leadership Panel to finalise the plan. 

Some 16 months of intensive work later, I’m delighted that SNAP 2 is now launched. Its vision is a Scotland where everyone can live with human dignity, and its aim is to deliver coordinated actions that will promote and advance human rights across Scotland.

SNAP 2 comes at an critical time. International insecurity, a global pandemic, rising rates of poverty and inequality, crises in health and social care, a climate emergency… I could go on. Put frankly, there is an ever-growing catalogue of problems that starkly highlight the need put people’s equality and rights – and public sector accountability – at the heart of what we do, not just what we say.

Which is where this new plan of 54 recommended, practical actions comes in. Guided by human rights principles and framed around eight priorities, SNAP 2 actions will help make rights real in everyday life.

SNAP is an important part of a much bigger process to ensure Scotland fulfils its human rights obligations. It’s designed to complement – rather than duplicate – other plans and strategies. But, unlike those that focus on a single sector or topic, this plan targets multiple issues.

To name just a few, SNAP 2 includes actions that address standard of living, health and wellbeing, the environment, education, work, justice, and Covid-19. The plan will help lay the groundwork for new human rights law and foster a human rights culture. All the actions will be delivered by partnerships of public bodies, third sector organisations, and – importantly – rights holders.

Some may feel that the plan doesn’t go far enough, or that important issues have been overlooked. However, the absence of issues doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. Given the breadth of problems, it’s just not feasible for SNAP 2 to address everything at one point in time, and this should be seen as a starting point.

The multi-stakeholder leadership panel – which finalised the action plan – has had to make some difficult decisions to ensure the plan is ambitious, but also realistic. It has done so using shared decision-making and robust evidence provided through research and the views of hundreds of people and organisations.

Over the past year, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work for and with the panel. Its voluntary members include rights holders and representatives from the third sector, public bodies and human rights institutions – people who come from many different walks of life, and bring a wealth of personal and professional experience. Time and again, they have demonstrated their ‘working together’ values of dignity, respect, equality, inclusion, curiosity and collaboration.

Now that the plan is published, that’s not the end of the process. As the panel co-chairs note in their foreword: “our next collective challenge is to ensure that SNAP 2 is delivered”. This mustn’t become yet another plan that sits on a shelf, gathering dust.

SNAP 2 is a living action plan so that human rights issues can be addressed on an ongoing basis, and action delivery can be phased and rolling. One of the first tasks will be for the panel, independent secretariat, Scottish Government and delivery stakeholders to refine actions and identify timelines and resourcing for phased delivery.

Although my time as SNAP Secretariat Lead comes to an end in March 2023, I will continue to advocate for – and support – its implementation. I firmly believe that, with government backing, sufficient resources, and buy-in from delivery partners, SNAP 2 can – and will – deliver meaningful change and positive human rights outcomes for people across Scotland.

Lucy Mulvagh is director of policy and communications at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE). She was seconded as the interim SNAP Secretariat Lead from October 2021 to March 2023. During this time she set up an independent SNAP Secretariat and supported the SNAP Leadership Panel. For more information, and to read SNAP 2, visit