Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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Legal skills and debates in Scotland

5  Human rights in Scotland: a leading light

The Scottish Government has a clear commitment to human rights which underpins the agenda for dignity, fairness and equality within Scottish society. Box 6 outlines this commitment.

Box 6 Scottish Government statement on human rights in Scotland

The Scottish Government is committed to creating a modern, inclusive Scotland which protects, respects and realises internationally recognised human rights. We strongly believe in and subscribe to the principles laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human rights are firmly entrenched at the heart of Scotland's existing constitutional, legal and institutional structures. Section 57(1) of the Scotland Act 1998 enshrines the ECHR as a fundamental standard for the actions of government and all Scottish legislation. The HRA 1998 ensures that every other public authority in Scotland is also obliged to act compatibly with the Convention.

Scotland's devolved institutions have a key role in implementing and upholding human rights standards. In those areas where the Scottish Government has competence, Scotland takes a distinctive approach, in keeping with the importance we have long attached to human dignity, equality and fairness and the pursuit of social justice.

The National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP) launched on International Human Rights Day in 10 December 2013 is a clear demonstration of this commitment.

SNAP was the first national action plan for human rights in any part of the UK. It considered experiences of countries all over the world and received guidance from the UN and the Council of Europe. It was an evidence-based action plan setting out outcomes and priorities, initially for the period 2013–2017. During that time SNAP coordinated action by a wide range of public bodies and voluntary organisations.

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Figure 6  The logo of the Scottish National Action Plan

The commitment to respecting and developing human rights as a cornerstone of the culture of Scotland (not just the legal culture) is clear as Parliament, government, other public bodies, charities and the private sector all work towards achieving the vision of a Scotland where everyone can live with human dignity, where social justice, equality and empowerment are the hallmarks of our society.

You should now watch the following video, which explores the national action plan for Scotland a little further.

Skip transcript: Video 4 Scottish National Action Plan for Human Rights

Transcript: Video 4 Scottish National Action Plan for Human Rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission was established in 2008 and promotes and protects the human rights of everyone living in Scotland. Over the past three years, the Commission has reviewed a wide range of research on the realisation of human rights in Scotland. The gaps in good practises identified in research will be addressed by developing Scotland's national action plan for human rights.
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all of us are entitled. They allow us to live a life of dignity and require to be recognised for each of us. Over the past three years, the Commission has been considering human rights in Scotland. That has allowed us to identify gaps and to identify good practise.
The research has brought out some interesting questions for us. It does indicate that human rights are not in a vacuum, that the impact on people each and every day and that decisions are taken affecting people's human rights, whether it be in courts, in classrooms, in care homes, right throughout their everyday lives in Scotland. This research is important to identify shortfalls in attaining human rights for people in Scotland to ensure that those human rights, which may well be there in statute, are actually there in reality for people. And it's closing that gap that we've spent so much of this time researching.
And in scoping the gaps and good practises in human rights protection, we looked at human rights across eight themes of life in Scotland. They were dignity and care, health, where we live, education and work, private and family life, safety and security, living in detention, and access to justice and the right to an effective remedy.
To give an idea of the types of issues that are covered within the report, on the topic of where we live, evidence suggests that the right to adequate housing, the rights of those living in rural areas, and the lived experience of where Scottish gypsy travellers live were major areas of concern for individuals and their communities, third sector organisations, as well as the agencies that deliver services.
Affordability, disparity in access to services, fuel poverty and discrimination can all be seen through a lens of human rights. And it's easy to see actually how human rights impacts on every area of our lives. As we undertook this project, we also spoke to a range of people across Scotland about their experiences of human rights, some of them in very difficult situations, and here's what they said.
Are you going to be treated worse because you've said you're a gypsy traveller? Are you going to be treated better or worse? You've got this attitude because you have been harassed all your life [INAUDIBLE]. Services with authority I've never trusted and I still don't trust.
I asked, I don't know how many times, for social work to help and intervene with my son. You could see he was having problems dealing with the aftermath of what happened, but no, the [INAUDIBLE] had come from school or another agency. It couldn't come from me. Then I was saying, please help us. We need help now.
Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights could help to end the inconsistencies and provide a more systematic approach. By developing a National Action Plan with involvement from those who deliver public services, as well as those whose human rights should be protected, the Commission hopes to show the potential to deliver real and sustainable improvements for everyone, especially the most marginalised people in Scotland.
I think that in terms of Scotland's laws and institutions, by and large, Scotland can be quite pleased with the progress it has made. Equally in some areas of policy and strategy, again, there are positive developments that have taken place. But where Scotland can't be complacent is that these laws and policies aren't actually being implemented and impacting on people's living experience in the way that we think they are and should be. That's where the inconsistency is taking place and that's where Scotland can progress a lot more and do that a lot better.
So the point of coming to the conclusion that we need to assure and not assume that rights are actually being realised in everyday life - decisions about health care, social care, access to justice, housing - in order to assure that these rights are recognised and fulfilled in everyday experience, Scotland needs a National Action Plan for human rights.
This action plan will be shaped in a very inclusive and participatory way, based on facts, on evidence, and coming to an agreement as to what are the priorities. What needs to be done, by who, how, over what realistic timeline, and in the economic constraints that we all have to recognise today and indeed over the next few years.
The United Nations has recommended to all countries that they develop National Action Plans. Where this has been done successfully in other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, it has been found there are real positive outcomes for people in their everyday life.
To make Scotland's National Action Plan effective, we need your help. Those whose rights are affected. Those with responsibilities.
As part of our consultation, we have two key questions. What do you think are the key gaps in the realisation of human rights in Scotland? What do you think would be the most effective and achievable way of addressing these gaps? We appreciate everyone's input and you can get involved between now and the end of March, 2013.
End transcript: Video 4 Scottish National Action Plan for Human Rights
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Video 4 Scottish National Action Plan for Human Rights
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Should you wish to learn more about this plan, or read the full plan it can be found here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


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