Scottish office - review of 2010

New Year Resolutions…

Since it would be fair to say that we haven’t been the best bloggers over the last year or so, and with new year resolutions to ‘do much better’ burning brightly in our hearts, we thought we’d start 2011 by letting you know what we’ve been up to over the last year or so.  Here are some of the highlights: 

2010 saw the launch of the new Amnesty campaign, ‘Demand Dignity’, which demands the rights listed in the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the rights we hear talked of more frequently like the right to life, freedom from torture, and freedom of expression.  Small matters like a child’s right to a decent education, a community’s rights to healthcare and adequate housing and corporate responsibility to the communities they impact. 

To get the ball rolling, we joined other campaigners in staging our own alternative Royal Bank of Scotland AGM. Here we highlighted this taxpayer-supported bank's financial links to mining firm Vedanta, whose actions threaten the health and security of indigenous communities in the Indian state of Orissa.  Together with Oxfam and the Royal College of Midwives we hosted a conference on Maternal Mortality to highlight the appalling lack of access to maternal healthcare in countries like Sierra Leone and Peru as well as discriminatory legislation in Nicaragua and Guatemala which prevents doctors treating women whose pregnancies become life threatening.  And we had great attendance at our Poverty of Justice series at the Glasgow Youth Film Festival.  See https://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=11173 to find out more.

2010 also saw the worrying Taser pilot from Strathclyde Police, which tore up existing protections and standards by providing these potentially lethal weapons to regular beat officers in Strathclyde.  Our research showed that the pilot was carried out with only a token look at how increased use of Tasers on the streets would affect vulnerable groups (such as those with mental health problems or drug users), without official sanction from Ministers,and despite independent legal advice concluding the pilot is ‘wholly unsupportable in law’. Amnesty remains firmly of the opinion that Tasers should remain in the hand of specially trained and accountable Firearms Officers and will vigorously oppose any further attempts to make them a normal presence on Scottish streets.

Another key campaign of the year challenged the high levels of discrimination against Scottish Gypsy Travellers in both the media and in public life.  We’re challenging local authorities to live up to their statutory duty to provide basic services – like sanitation, access to healthcare and education, and traveller site parking – to travelling communities across Scotland. We will be following up with an analysis of how Scottish Gypsy Travellers are portrayed in the Scottish media, and with calls to the Scottish Government to show leadership in tackling prejudice and discrimination while meeting the needs of both travelling and settled communities. 

The new campaigns have dominated much of our campaigning work over the last twelve months – discrimination against Scottish Gypsy Travellers is deeply ingrained and it’s going to take a monumental effort by all of us to change it!  But of course, that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the issues you’ve helped us with in the past.  Following on from the Stop Violence Against Women campaign we keep fighting wider gender discrimination in our society.  Last year alone we played a key role in establishing White Ribbon Scotland, a charity which encourages men in Scotland to challenge the sexist attitudes that support, and all too often encourage, a culture of inequality where physical and sexual violence towards women is tolerated much too easily.  We contributed to the Scottish Government’s consultation on forced marriage, highlighting the danger and destitution faced by women attempting to flee violence whose insecure immigration status prevents them accessing the public funds necessary to seek refuge space or legal aid.  And evidence from our joint work with the UK Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group proved vital in shaping the Equal Opportunities Committee’s inquiry report on the state of human trafficking in Scotland with many of our recommendations being taken on board.

The Scottish Government consulted with Amnesty on the human rights situation in China before Ministerial visits to the country and we continue to push for human rights considerations to be included in all of Scotland’s engagement on the world stage.  The Europe and External Affairs Committee of the Parliament agreed to support our call in its review of the Government's international engagement.

And, as always, we were a strong presence across Scotland’s festivals last year, raising awareness of individuals at risk (including the case of Malawian couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga who were sentenced to 14 years hard labour for holding a traditional marriage ceremony), promoting freedom of expression, and highlighting the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters in Burma.

So that's rather a long piece for a blog, but it was a busy year. Keep in touch with what we're up to in 2011 on Facebook and on Twitter.

We might even manage to blog a bit more regularly, but in the meantime find out how you can lobby candidates in the upcoming Scottish elections campaign.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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