Scottish Human Rights Commission
The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is the national human rights institution for Scotland. It was established by an Act of the Scottish Parliament and started its work in 2008. The Commission is independent of Government, and of the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments. It seeks to promote and protect the human rights of everyone in Scotland, working to increase awareness, recognition and respect for human rights, and make them more relevant and easier to apply in everyday life. The Commission aims to help everyone understand their rights and the shared responsibilities everyone has to each other and to their community.
The SHRC has an office in Edinburgh. It is a Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) supported body meaning that it is separate and independent from Government but still accountable for its public funds. The chair of the Commission is Judith Robertson.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission is the newest of the three national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the United Kingdom and, like the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), it has secured "A status" accreditation from the International Co-ordinating Committee of NHRIs (the ICC). The Scottish Parliament, when establishing the Commission in 2008, ensured that it complied with United Nations Principles Related to the Status of National Institutions, known as the Paris Principles – a series of recommendations on the role, status and functions of NHRIs. The Commission has a strong international profile and can participate in parallel reporting mechanisms for UN treaty processes. In October 2010 it hosted the biennial world conference of NHRIs in Edinburgh. The Commission was elected as chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions during a meeting in Geneva on 17 May 2011, and re-elected to this post in May 2013
- To promote and protect the human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – of everyone in Scotland.
- To promote best practice on human rights in Scotland by providing education, advice and training.
- To publish information and conduct research.
The Commission must lay annually before the Scottish Parliament a general report on the exercise of its functions during the year. Issues concerning equality, and some non-devolved human rights matters, are the responsibility of the EHRC. The SHRC, NIHRC and EHRC participate with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland in the "independent mechanism" to promote, protect and monitor implementation in the UK of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- The power to conduct inquiries into the policies or practices of Scottish public authorities working to deliver a particular service, or public authorities of a particular description.
- The ability to provide education, training and awareness raising, and by publishing research.
- Recommending such changes to Scottish law, policy and practice as it considers necessary.
- The power to enter some places of detention as part of an inquiry, and the power to intervene in civil court cases where relevant to the promotion of human right and where the case appears to raise a matter of public interest.
The Commission is under a duty to ensure it is not duplicating work that others already carry out. It cannot provide assistance to any person in connection with a legal claim. Assistance includes advice, guidance and grants.
- Matt Smith OBE
- Susan Kemp
- Dr Alan Mitchell
Previous chairs and commissioners
Professor Alan Miller served as chair from 2008 to 2016.
- John McNeill (2008-09)
- Professor Kay Hampton (2008-15)
- Shelagh McCall (2008-15)
Work of the Commission
The Commission is currently working from its Strategic Plan 2017-2020. The strategic priorities for this time period are as follows:
1. Building a human rights culture - SNAP (Scotland's National Action Plan) and beyond 2. Promoting respect for dignity and rights in health and social care 3. Promoting a rights based approach to poverty and social justice 4. Increasing accountability for rights: law, regulation, monitoring, and accessing rights 5. Learning, sharing and promoting our work and human rights internationally and nationally
The work of the Commission focuses on implementing a human-rights–based approach at the heart of policy choices and practice in Scotland to ensure that human rights are at the centre of how organisations in Scotland work, as well as how they measure success.
Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP)
Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP) was launched on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013. It sets out a bold roadmap towards a Scotland where everyone can live with human dignity.
Care About Rights
This project aims to increase awareness, understanding and confidence in the care sector about human rights in order to improve conditions for those in care and for their carers. Particular emphasis has been placed on the needs of older people through a training package called "Care about Rights".
Acknowledgement and Accountability Forum for victims of Historic Child Abuse
In February 2010 the Commission published a comprehensive human rights framework to address historic child abuse through an Acknowledgement and Accountability Forum. The framework was positively received by many survivors and international experts. The Commission worked with the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland to deliver a series of InterActions with to develop an Action Plan on Justice and Remedies. You can read more about the InterActions here: [www.shrcinteraction.org] The Commission continues to monitor the process of acknowledgement and accountability in Scotland and the implementation of its recommendations. Current work on historic child abuse can be seen at the Commission's website: [www.scottishhumanrights.com/justice/historic-child-abuse/]
Human Rights Impact Assessments for Education and Training
In order to fulfil its mandate concerning education and training the Commission has developed training materials on human rights for staff in local authorities. In January 2010 the Commission piloted human rights training for staff within the Services for Communities Division of the City of Edinburgh Council. In the following month research was also conducted into international best practice and various experiences of carrying out human rights impact assessments. In 2013 the Commission piloted a joint Equalities and Human Rights Impact Assessment with two partner organisations, Fife and Renfrewshire Councils. The project will begin by establishing an understanding of current practices and approaches to assessing equality and human rights impacts, and develop appropriate means for the partner organisations to move beyond the legal requirement to carry out equality impact assessment towards having the capability to assess equality and human rights impacts together. The pilot bodies will contribute to the development of ideas and also to the road-testing of such approaches.
Emerging human rights issues
Business and human rights
In 2010 the Commission contributed to the work of the Working Group of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions on Business and Human Rights by drafting a survey for all institutions on their interests, needs and capacities in the area. The Commission also provided written and oral evidence to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry on Business and Human Rights. In October 2010 the Commission hosted the International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions on the theme of Business and Human Rights. The conference agreed the Edinburgh Declaration, which sets an action plan for NHRIs on business and human rights.
Defending the Human Rights Act
In 2009, the Conservative party, then the main UK opposition party, announced that, if elected, it would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a Bill of Rights. In March 2010 the Commission published two statements, including one co-signed with the NIHRC, calling for the preservation of the Act and emphasising that human rights would be best protected by building on the Act instead of replacing it.
Human rights and climate change
In November 2009 the Commission, in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Scottish Government and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, held a conference in Glasgow on 'Human Rights and Climate Change, Achieving climate justice in Scotland'.
The Commission is one of over 80 NHRIs within the ICC's global network supported by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In June 2010 the Commission was given "A status" accreditation by the ICC; this gives it enhanced access to treaty bodies and other UN mechanisms. Along with the NIHRC and EHRC the SHRC participates in the European Group of NHRIs. The SHRC is currently the chair of the European Group.
Interaction with other NHRIs
In June 2009 the Commission hosted the first joint meeting of the four national human rights institutions of the UK and Ireland; the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Irish Human Rights Commission, the NIHRC and, of course, the Scottish Commission. Justice Albie Sachs, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, also participated in the meeting.
In October 2010 the Commission hosted the 10th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions at the Scottish Parliament, bringing together delegates from over 80 countries to discuss issues around Business and Human Rights. The conference ended with the agreement of the Edinburgh Declaration.
Interaction with the United Nations
The Commission frequently makes submissions to the Treaty bodies of the United Nations framework. The reports provide a critique of law, policy and practice in Scotland.
In June 2009 the Commission was appointed a member of the UK's independent mechanism responsible for promoting, monitoring and protecting the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- "Chart of the status of National Institutions" (PDF). International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "News: Scotland to host ICC Biennial". Scottish Human Rights Commission. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "Re-election to Chair European Network". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006". National Archives. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "News: Parliament invited to nominate new chair of SHRC". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "About us: people". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "News: new commissioners bring significant legal and practical expertise". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Scotland's National Action Plan". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Care About Rights?". Scottish Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 6 September 2014.