Make Human Rights Justice a Reality

Food on the table, a fair wage at work, a roof over your head, access to high quality, healthcare: these are all human rights, but not all of them are currently enforceable in courts in Scotland.

All our human rights are protected in law at the international level, but it can be hard for us to act if these rights are violated. In Scotland, steps are being taken to change this. The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a new Human Rights Bill by June 2024 (a significant departure from the rhetoric and policy direction of the current UK Government).

If this bill is passed, with sufficient accountability mechanisms and a strong focus on the budgetary changes that need to take place, this would be a huge leap forward in allowing us to name and claim all our rights. The proposed Bill promises to incorporate major Human Rights treaties into Scots law: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – as well as the right to a healthy environment.

These treaties protect us and enshrine into law our ‘everyday rights’: things like the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, the right to adequate housing, the right to fair pay, the right to health and the right to culture. They also lay out the responsibilities of all government and public bodies to protect and advance these rights.

The passage of a Human Rights Bill for Scotland would mean that for the first time in Scotland’s history, public bodies would have to consider all our human rights when delivering services like housing, social care, or social security. They would also have a legal obligation to ensure that no one in Scotland falls below a certain threshold of each right - guaranteeing everybody a specific minimum standard of living, minimum standard of housing, minimum standard of food. Some of these minimums are outlined at the United Nations level but would be detailed and tailored for Scotland through a participatory process. And the Scottish Government would have a legal duty to ensure public authorities are able to deliver this.

People should be able to name and claim their rights and seek remedy when things go wrong. In a Scotland where 9,595 children are in temporary accommodation, and 1.2 million people experienced food insecurity, this Bill could deliver a transformational shift in power, and how we can hold our government and public bodies accountable to their human rights duties.

At its best, a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland should work to ensure that policy, practice and the budgets of public bodies are driving the progressive realisation of human rights for all of Scotland’s people and communities. However, we need to see a much greater focus on bringing about the changes needed, to ensure people can access justice for human rights wrongs.

The Human Rights Consortium Scotland along with Poverty Alliance, JustRight Scotland, Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, Shelter Scotland, CLAN Childlaw and Justice have launched a joint report - 'Make Human Rights Justice a Reality'. Informed by lived experience, it outlines 13 calls to action on access to justice for human rights violations.

Scotland is a compassionate nation that believes in justice – yet in 2023, too few people can access remedy when their human rights are breached. This bill, if passed in its most comprehensive form, can embed all our rights in a law that has the teeth it needs to transform this injustice and pave the way for a Scotland where all our rights are respected, protected and advanced. It would oblige Scottish Government to put advancing human dignity at the forefront of everything they do, including their budgets - and enable us to hold them accountable for this – regardless of which party was in power.

We are calling on organisations to support our calls to action. To support this report, please email


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