In this blog Equalities Ambassador Luke Padfield provides an update on the legal status of international human rights treaties in Scotland.

It is well known that in March 2018, the Scottish Parliament passed the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, and that this bill, which expressly retains the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights, has been passed to the Supreme Court.

What is less known is that in October 2017, the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) advertised an invitation to tender to look at issues associated with the incorporation of human rights treaties.[1] Specifically, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Human Rights is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. It therefore has the power make these rights legally enforceable.

The SHRC advocated support for ‘incorporation’ defining it as “domestic justiciability of international standards, particularly economic and social rights”.  Broadly speaking, justiciability is the difference between immediately enforceable rights (justiciable) and rights that are progressively realised over time (non-justiciable).

The tender was awarded to Dr Katie Boyle of the University of Roehampton who is due to produce a report in the coming months. The research was supported by 5 thematic workshops held on the subjects of:

  • Right to Social Security
  • Right to Food
  • Right to Housing
  • Right to Health
  • Strengthening Economic and Social Rights Protection in Scotland.

More recently, the Equalities and Human Rights Committee in the Scottish Parliament held an inquiry asking what the Scottish Parliament can do to develop its role as a Human Rights Guarantor.[2] It is understood that, among other things, they are considering human rights training for all MSPs and MSP staff.

Further, the First Minister has recently appointed an Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership. It is understood that the group is currently considering the possibility of incorporating human rights treaties into Scots Law.[3] The group is specifically considering the incorporation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. The incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is also being considered. The findings of the group will be delivered in Dec 2018 and will be based on a participative process.





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