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Human Rights Bill consultation

Incorporating United Nations treaties into domestic law.

Views are being sought on plans to enshrine international human rights – including the right to health and an adequate standard of living – into Scots law for the first time.

As part of a forthcoming Human Rights Bill, the proposals look to reduce inequality and would place a broader range of human rights at the centre of how Scotland’s frontline public services are delivered, as well as its policy and law making processes. People would also be able to seek justice where their rights are not upheld.

Legislation would incorporate United Nations economic, social, and cultural rights and environmental standards, as well as rights relating to women, disabled people and people who experience racism.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to everyone.

“Our ambitious proposals will protect and promote these rights in every aspect of life in Scotland – from government and parliament through to the everyday interactions people have with frontline services – and ensure they apply equally across society.

“Making these rights enforceable in Scots law, within the limits of devolution, is the right thing to do – particularly for a country striving to reduce inequality, increase opportunity and tackle poverty.

“I would encourage people to share their views on the detailed proposals through our consultation and help to make human rights real for everybody.”

Former Member and Vice Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Professor Sandra Liebenberg said:

“Economic, social and cultural rights are an integral component of international human rights law, and essential to securing the dignity of all people, particularly those experiencing poverty and socio-economic marginalisation.

“The proposals being consulted on for a Human Rights Bill for Scotland represent an exciting opportunity, incorporating a holistic range of international human rights standards. The emphasis placed in the consultation proposals on access to justice is particularly significant given their role in ensuring that ordinary people can access remedies.”


The Human Rights Bill consultation will run for 16 weeks and close on 5 October 2023.

The Human Rights Bill proposes to incorporate four UN human rights treaties into Scots law:

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The Bill will also introduce and recognise a right to a healthy environment and  ensure equal access to these rights for everyone.

Civil and political rights are protected through the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The proposals follow on from the work and recommendations of the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership (FMAG) and the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership (the Taskforce). The Taskforce reported in March 2021 and made a number of recommendations for the Scottish Government to establish a new human rights framework for Scotland.

Enshrining rights in law aims to empower individuals to understand and claim them, and to ensure there is more effective monitoring and accountability when things go wrong. Effective delivery of these rights will strengthen the principle of inherent dignity in everyday life.

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