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National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership Report

The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership was established in December 2018 in response to recommendations by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership (FMAG).

Graphic from taskforce report

On Friday, 12 March 2021 the Taskforce published their final report, from which 30 recommendations have been accepted by the Scottish Government aimed at improving equality and human rights across the devolved areas of environment, social, economic and cultural rights.

Building on the work from her ESRC IAA project, ‘Incorporating Human Rights in Scotland,’ Dr Kasey McCall-Smith (Senior Lecturer in Public International Law at Edinburgh Law School) was a member of the Academic Advisory Group to the Taskforce. Speaking of the Taskforce’s report, she said:

“The Taskforce recommendations represent the successful conclusion to this phase of work directed toward entrenching human rights and reinforcing the dignity of every person in Scotland. It concludes months of multi-stakeholder engagements and work by the individual Taskforce members, civil society organisations, Scottish Government and my colleagues on the Academic Advisory Panel, but it is only the strength of the legislation that follows in the next phase which will ensure all our rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

“The internationalist approach proposes a consolidated piece of legislation reflecting international human rights in respect of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights alongside incorporation of the international frameworks for the empowerment of women, disabled people and minorities, as well as a standalone right to a healthy environment. The report further recommends a stronger equality clause to support LGBTI people in engaging their rights and securing the rights of older people, sending a clear message that all people should be able to exercise and enjoy all of their human rights. The recommendations pay special attention to access to justice and enforcement as a means of ensuring that rights are made real.”

The Taskforce’s recommendations will underpin new world-leading human rights legislation as announced by the Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. The Human Rights Bill is due to be introduced in the next parliamentary session and will incorporate four United Nations Human Rights treaties into Scots law, subject to devolved competence, including: 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 aims to advance economic, social and cultural rights, and protect a right to a healthy environment, by addressing the right for everyone to have an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate food, clothing and housing and the continuous improvement of living conditions, and will address the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. 

The recommendations are underpinned by the widely recognised idea that human rights are interrelated and do not exist in a vacuum. In short, to deliver protection for one human right for one individual demands that ALL human rights are respected and protected for ALL people.

Read the full National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership Report

Image credit: National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership Report