Explainer series – Scottish Human Rights Bill

In the first of our Explainer Series, THRE’s Suki Wan sets out what the Scottish Human Rights Bill is and what it means for organisations within Scotland’s third sector.


Background: In 2017, the Scottish Government set up the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership to make recommendations on the next steps in Scotland’s human rights journey.

The Advisory Group published their recommendations in December 2018 with one of the major recommendations being an Act of Scottish Parliament that serves as a human rights framework.

In response, the First Minister assembled a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership made up of academics, legal professionals and policy experts to design proposals for what this human rights framework could look like and what it should include.

The Taskforce concluded their work in March 2021 and on the 12th of March released the National Taskforce for Human Rights: leadership report, recommending that the Act should:

  • Reaffirm the rights protected in the UK Human Rights Act
  • Reaffirm the Equality Act 2010 in providing equal access for everyone to rights in the Act
  • Incorporate the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
  • Incorporate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • Include the right to a healthy environment for all
  • Include the right to equality specifically for LGBTI people
  • Include the right to a life of dignity and independence for older people

This would cover a much wider range of areas than existing UK human rights law does, including the right to food, the right to housing and the right to an adequate standard of  living.

It would increase more of the ‘positive’ rights in law, this refers to what the state should actively provide to citizens versus ‘negative’ rights which refer to things the state should avoid doing such as discrimination and other barriers.


Status: The Scottish Government announced in March 2021 that they would be taking forward the Taskforce’s recommendations and are currently drafting policy proposals for a Scottish Human Rights Bill in line with the bulleted points above.

The consultation on the Bill has now been completed with the analysis of responses available on the Scottish Government website.

Next steps: The Scottish Government have committed to passing the Bill by the end of this Scottish Parliament term (2026), it is expected to be introduced to Parliament by June 2024. Find out more on the Human Rights Consortium website


How does this affect me?: The most immediate impact of the Bill would be that rights issues can be dealt with in Scottish courts – this could lead to more issues being dealt with quicker and at lower cost to the complainant, in contrast to the current process which is lengthier and often costly.

On a wider societal level, the Bill is likely to be accompanied by an Implementation Programme that mainstreams human rights knowledge and practice across different parts of Scottish society, including the third sector.

One outcome may be the move towards taking a rights-based approach in organisational practice and delivery.

If you would like to learn more about how organisations can take a rights and equalities based approach, THRE is delivering free training courses for everyone working in Scotland’s Third Sector – visit our Eventbrite to sign up.


Who should I go to for information and updates?