Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on bringing international human rights treaties and conventions into domestic law, Public Law Project has voiced its support of a stronger framework for socio-economic rights 


In our response, we agree that socio economic rights should alongside traditional human rights frameworks – be understood as fundamental in a civilised and compassionate society. 

At a time when the UK’s commitment to human rights and their conventions are being questioned, we welcome the Scottish Government’s support for international human rights law and an international rules based order as forces for good.  

PLP supports the Scottish Government proposal to incorporate the following treaties, which take into account crucial factors such as a person’s socio-economic status:

  • International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),
  • and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

PLP also welcomes the collaborative approach that the Scottish Government took on this initiative. In working closely with Scottish civil society, particularly the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, and those with lived experience of human rights violations through the Lived Experience Boards, the Scottish Government has taken a refreshing approach to the development of human rights policy that reflects people’s real needs and priorities.

Our key recommendations to the Scottish Human Rights Bill consultation include: 

  • Direct incorporation: The Bill should directly incorporate the international treaties into Scottish law. 
  • Duties on public bodies: The Bill should impose two types of duties – procedural and compliance – to reflect the importance of outcome. 
  • Go as far as possible: The Scottish Government should engage with the UK Government to see if agreement can be reached to make the Bill cover as many public bodies as possible. 
  • Equal protection: There should be an equality provision in the Bill ensuring that everyone is able to access the rights on the same footing, and requiring courts to take international obligations into account. 
  • Ensuring accountability: The Bill should apply to all bodies carrying out functions of a public nature, including private or charitable bodies acting under a contract or other arrangements with a public body.
  • Ensuring individuals do not have to challenge the state alone: PLP strongly supports the Scottish Government’s proposal that advocacy organisations and others with a “sufficient interest” should be permitted to pursue litigation, rather than leaving individuals to shoulder the emotional, practical and financial burden. 
  • Interpretive principles: The Bill should contain a purpose clause requiring the judiciary to interpret the legislation in light of the principles of dignity, freedom, equality, justice, and participation – as well as considering existing human rights protections in Scotland and abroad. 
  • Effective review and remedies by courts: The Bill should make clear that the appropriate standard of judicial review is “proportionality” and that judges do not have to defer to the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament just because a decision relates to socio-economic matters. Judges should also have an ongoing role supervising how their judgment is implemented. 
  • Guidance: The Scottish Government should develop detailed guidance in several areas, explaining aspects like what role dignity should play for public bodies in satisfying their duties under the Bill. 
  • Promoting a human rights culture: The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman should publish an updated complaints handling framework referring specifically to how to effectively protect human rights. 
  • Training: The Bill should place a duty on Scottish public bodies to provide ongoing human rights training to their staff. 
  • Access to courts: The Scottish Government should engage an expert public law academic or practitioner to lead a review on the barriers that Scottish residents face effectively accessing judicial review and providing recommendations on procedural reforms, like allocating enough funding to legal aid. 
  • Public awareness: The Bill will only be effective if the public know what their rights are. The Scottish Government should therefore develop plans for a public awareness campaign. 
  • Evidence-based human rights policy: There should be an obligation on Scottish public bodies to attempt to gather data on the protected characteristics of individuals they provide services for or exercise power over, and any detrimental effects caused.