The UK and Scottish governments must communicate and collaborate to strengthen human rights law in Scotland, commissioners have recommended.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission said the recent Supreme Court judgment on the incorporation of children’s rights into Scottish law shows a careful approach is needed.
In his recent Programme for Government, Humza Yousaf announced a Human Rights Bill which will seek to incorporate international economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law, “within the limits of devolved competence”.
The commission received a legal opinion from a KC on how international law could be incorporated by Holyrood, finding there are a number of models for achieving this.
It was included in a consultation response to the upcoming Bill.
Jan Savage, executive director of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “The commission is concerned that people in Scotland continue to experience human rights denials, as evidenced in our own research and reports to international bodies, as well as by regulators in health, education, criminal justice, social care, and housing, civil society and media investigations.
“Inevitably, the UK Government’s legal challenge to the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and subsequent Supreme Court judgment will influence the approach to be taken to this Bill.
“Careful consideration must be given therefore to the model of incorporating international human rights treaties into Scots law to achieve the greatest possible protection and promotion of human rights.”
She said “further analysis” is needed on the different models of incorporation the Scottish Parliament could use.
She continued: “Further consideration of alternative approaches, and analysis of their respective merits and feasibility, in the context of the complex challenges of the devolved settlement, is therefore strongly recommended by the commission.
“Regardless which approach is ultimately pursued; the Scottish and UK governments must deliver more effective communication and collaboration in their engagement regarding incorporation so that the progressive development of human rights protection in Scotland is not unnecessarily undermined or delayed.
“Uncertainty over the scope for stronger legal protection for human rights in the devolved context must be brought to a close.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our proposed Human Rights Bill will give effect to a wide range of internationally recognised human rights belonging to everyone in Scotland, within the limits of devolved competence.
“Incorporating four different international treaties into Scots law is a complex and technical endeavour, and we want to ensure that the Bill will create a genuine step change towards building an enhanced human rights culture in Scotland.
“That is why we have been consulting on our ambitious proposals and seeking views on how we best create a clear and accessible human rights framework which makes a real difference to the people of Scotland.
“As our public consultation draws to a close we will reflect on what we have heard and continue to engage closely with a range of voices – including the Scottish Human Rights Commission – to develop a Bill that will put the principles and standards of human rights at the heart of public service delivery.”
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