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Human rights report unveiled by Scottish Parliament committee

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The Scottish Parliament should be an international human rights leader, according to a report citing research by a University of Stirling academic.

The report, from Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, is being launched ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being adopted, which will take place on 10 December. It cites research by Dr Katie Boyle, of Stirling’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and is the culmination of work carried out by the Committee in the last two years, since human rights was added to its remit.

Dr Boyle said: “The report demonstrates human rights leadership at a local, national and global level. There is a commitment from the Parliament to act as a guarantor of human rights and the Committee has taken steps to explore the different means of fulfilling this mandate, including a road map for the Parliament.

Image of Dr Katie Boyle

Dr Katie Boyle, Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law

“This includes both pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny, integrating human rights across the work of Parliament, as well as embracing human rights derived from international human rights law, including the rights of the child, the right to adequate housing, the right to an adequate standard of living and freedom from poverty.

“Research demonstrates the importance of the legislature embracing its role in any constitutional setting that respects rights and human dignity and there is an opportunity for Scotland to be world leading in this respect."

The report outlines 40 recommendations aimed at bolstering the Scottish Parliament and MSPs’ roles as guarantors of human rights. The Committee saw this as an urgent task given the major changes to the rights landscape internationally and within the UK as it leaves the EU.

Recommendations include the Parliament tracking the Scottish Government’s progress against international human rights obligations, training on human rights for MSPs and staff, and integrating human rights considerations into all parliamentary scrutiny.

Rights

The Committee is also asking the Parliament to add human rights to its remit permanently, subsuming the previous Equalities Committee, and to create ‘human rights champions’ on each Committee.

Speaking as report was published, Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said: “In the past two years, the Committee has put human rights at the heart of everything it does. With the benefit of that experience, and based on extensive inquiry work, we now want to improve the way the whole Scottish Parliament thinks about and uses human rights to improve the lives of the people of Scotland.

“The steps we are setting out will help MSPs, Parliament staff, public bodies and the Scottish Government get human rights right. Human rights are at the heart of the Scottish Parliament’s vision of being a power-sharing Parliament, but we need to make sure that vision is a reality more often.

“We want people across Scotland to understand their rights and to know how to exercise them; we want public bodies taking decisions to advance human rights; and we want Parliament to be the guarantor of those rights.
“We have lots of ideas, and lots of examples of best practice. The challenge now is to make that standard practice.”

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