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19/04/17 09:30

Standing up for human rights

Scottish progress ahead of UN review.

Scotland has a duty to speak out strongly for human rights – and ensure our record measures up to the standards we expect other nations to meet.

That was the message from Equalities Secretary Angela Constance, as she published a statement on Scotland’s human rights record ahead of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of the UK on 4 May.

Ms Constance said:

“Human rights enrich every aspect of our daily lives – benefiting individuals and empowering communities. Both here and internationally, they quite literally save lives.  That’s why I am pleased to update the UN on the measures we are taking to progress human rights and and build a fairer, more equal and inclusive Scotland.

“We welcome this scrutiny of our record – therefore it is very disappointing that the UK Government has denied Scottish Ministers the opportunity to attend the UN review on 4 May. We will, of course, respond positively to any recommendations from the UN that could help us improve our human rights obligations.

“The actions we are taking to ensure human rights are respected and protected reflect a national vision - shared by government, civil society partners and the Scottish people - of a country where everyone is able to live with dignity.

“However, the direction the UK Government has been taking is fundamentally incompatible with that view. While UK Ministers have called into question protections under the European Convention on Human Rights and European Law, we are working to ensure everyone in Scottish society can enjoy their rights in full.”

Recent initiatives to progress human rights and implement UN recommendations in Scotland include:

  • Tackling poverty through the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and enshrining in law the commitment to eradicate child poverty
  • Launching the Equally Safe strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls
  • Committing to put dignity, respect and human rights at the heart of the way new social security powers are implemented in Scotland
  • Working directly with disabled people to develop Scotland’s delivery plan for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Practical action to address the inequalities that women continue to experience in the workplace
  • Launching Scotland’s Race Equality Framework, to take forward both international and domestic commitments on race equality
  • Investing in the Scottish Attainment Challenge to raise educational attainment for Scotland’s most disadvantaged children

Background

Read the Scottish Government position statement on the UN Universal Periodic Review.

The UK Government’s record has been the subject of significant UN criticism in recent years.  Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities highlighted “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people. In 2014 the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing found UK policies had left many low income, disabled and homeless people in "tremendous despair".

UN Universal Periodic Reviews take place on a rolling basis, with each UN member examined every four to five years. The UK record was previously examined in 2012 and 2008.

The UN has published a series of documents in advance of the UK examination on 4 May. UK and Scottish performance against obligations in the seven core UN human rights treaties, to which the UK is a party, is also examined by the UN on a rolling basis.