Scotland must do better to “respect, protect and fulfil” its human rights obligations, according to a new paper published by an independent think-tank.
The Jimmy Reid Foundation paper has called on the Scottish Government to implement four recommendations to ensure human rights are applied equally and fairly.
It comes ahead of social justice secretary Alex Neil’s appearance at Holyrood’s European Relations Committee, as it continues gathering evidence in its human rights inquiry, and follows a poll last year which found one in five Scots said human rights are for minority groups only and two in five said they have no bearing on their everyday life.
The paper has recommended that the Scottish Government should “proactively” ensure public services fulfil their existing obligations to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as international law.
It also wants the Scottish Parliament to set up a Human Rights Committee to provide scrutiny of all Bills and inquiries, and for measures set out in Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights (Snap) to be made compulsory.
Finally, it said political parties should set out specific commitments to human rights in their election manifestos.
The paper argues that in the longer term, people should be consulted on what further rights they would like to see enforceable in domestic courts.
Author Carole Ewart said: “Applying human rights equally and fairly can address urgent issues including poverty, poor care for elderly people and unfair employment practices.
“Scotland must now take deliberate, concrete and measurable steps to comply with existing human rights law, address the reputational damage which has led to people regarding human rights as weak, owned by a minority and of little relevance, and focus on enforcement action which makes Scotland a model of best practice.
“Although human rights are to be included in the National Performance Framework, there is a fear that it will fail to deliver a prompt impact, and promises to consult on extending our list of human rights will serve as a distraction from the main problem of delivery and delay positive action further.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government values the Human Rights Act. We see it as a proportionate, pragmatic and progressive way of ensuring that the protections of the European Convention of Human Rights can be taken into account by UK courts.
“We see those protections as being essential to any civilised society. That is why we have argued strongly against the repeal of the Act, in Scotland and across the whole of the UK, and will continue our opposition.
“Promoting equality and tackling inequality runs through our Programme for Government and we are the only part of the UK to have developed a National Action Plan on Human Rights.”