New National Taskforce to lead on human rights in Scotland
Group will focus on creating a new statutory framework
Shirley Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, and Professor Alan Miller of Strathclyde University are to co-chair a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.
The purpose of the taskforce is to ensure Scotland is a world leader in putting human rights into practice.
The announcement takes forward recommendations made in December by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.
The taskforce will focus on the development of new legislation which would enhance the protection of the human rights of every member of Scottish society.
In a parallel initiative, the Scottish Government is already consulting on proposals to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.
The new taskforce will oversee wider work to deliver a radical blueprint for human rights legislation covering all areas of devolved responsibility.
Announcing the taskforce’s creation, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
“I am delighted to announce the establishment of Scotland’s new National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.
“I am pleased that Professor Alan Miller has agreed to serve as the independent co-chair. Professor Miller has had a distinguished career as an advocate for human rights both in Scotland and at international level.
“I look forward to working closely with him to deliver a new statutory framework that ensures everyone in our society can live with human dignity and enjoy their rights in full.”
Professor Miller said:
“There is an urgent need for human rights leadership in today’s world. The leadership steps to be taken in and by Scotland are clear.
“It is therefore a welcome responsibility to have been asked to co-chair the National Task Force for Human Rights Leadership. I look forward to working with my co-chair and with people from all walks of life to improve the everyday lives of everyone and to help make Scotland a better country in a better world.
“In taking on this role I pay tribute to the human rights commitment already demonstrated by the Scottish Government, and also by the Parliament and the wider public sector in Scotland.
“I also recognise the tireless commitment and invaluable contributions made by civil society over many years as well as the inspiration to be drawn from the work of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights.
“That collective ambition and the learning from the lived experience of individuals will remain central to the work of the taskforce as it takes forward its work to ensure Scotland becomes an international leader in building a society based upon human dignity.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Prof Miller was unanimously elected and re-elected by the Scottish Parliament as the founding Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (2008-16) and was elected as Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (2011-16). In 2017 he was invited to chair the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership. The Advisory Group reported on 10 December 2018. Since 2016 he has served as Special Envoy for the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions as well as a roster member of the UNDP Crisis Response Bureau.
2. The Report of the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights leadership can be found here
3. Scotland (as a constituent nation within the UK) is party to seven core UN human rights treaties and seven further Council of Europe treaties. Obligations under a variety of other international conventions and protocols also apply. Further information can be found here
4. At present only rights derived from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) have been given explicit effect in domestic law. ECHR rights are set out in the Human Rights Act 1998 and also form part of the Scotland Act 1998. In addition, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights also provides important human rights safeguards in the context of EU law when it is applied at the domestic level. These EU rights are currently enforceable through the Scottish courts but the Charter will cease to have effect when the UK leaves the EU.
5. The Scottish Government consultation on incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was published on 22 May 2019 and can be found at: https://www.gov.scot/news/improving-childrens-rights/
6. Although Scotland has obligations under more than twenty international human rights treaties, at present only the European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated at a national level.
7. Scotland’s National Performance Framework explicitly recognises the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil international human rights. This is now one of the eleven National Outcomes established by the NPF.
8. The Scottish Ministerial Code (paragraph 1.3) already recognises that ministers have a duty to comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations.