We are not alone

Some time ago I had a bit of a moan on this blog about the lack of a human rights culture in Scotland.

Central to my gripe was the fact that while London has a number of human rights organisations (Liberty, British Institute of Human Rights, Justice…) only Amnesty International has a staffed office in Scotland, with its separate legal system and increasingly distinct political culture. And even then our main focus is on providing a Scottish angle on international issues. So who is speaking out on human rights in Scotland – for older people, the disabled, homeless, mentally ill and, indeed, everyone (for that is the point).

Here in Amnesty’s Scottish office we’ve pretty much been on our lonesome since the late, lamented Scottish Human Rights Centre folded due to lack of sustainable funding. And it has been with a heavy heart that we have had to turn away the various pleas for help that have phoned, e-mailed or even turned up at the door – not having the expertise or the resources to help them. Hopefully all that is about to change…..

Last Friday I attended the official launch of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and was pleasantly surprised to find myself in what could only be described as a crowd. All sorts of folk, from a variety of walks of life, seated themselves around the tables. I’m told the event was oversubscribed and I know several people who couldn’t get in.

A succession of speakers welcomed the new Commission and looked forward to the positive role it can play in Scottish society. All very encouraging, and there had been hints of this new mood the previous week when Alan Miller, the Chair of the new Commission, came to speak to the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Human Rights and Civil Liberties. There was an excellent turnout from the group’s over 100 members, with various sections of Scottish society showing real interest in how the Commission (and thereby the human rights framework) has relevance for their own work.

The new Commission has a job of work ahead to establish itself and win the support and recognition of Scottish society. But the start augurs well.

Human rights as popular cause in Scotland? I’m nothing if not an optimist.

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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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