Scotland: Business and Human Rights Protections Don't Fit The Bill

There are countless human rights abuses caused by irresponsible, unscrutinised business practices, including modern day slavery, forced labour, human trafficking, and corporations fuelling conflict through illegal trade.”

Amnesty International Scotland today expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government's Procurement Bill did not go far enough to protect human rights, calling it a “missed opportunity'” but welcomed assurances from the Deputy First Minister of the government's commitment to ensure Scotland's public spending would meet international obligations on human rights.

Siobhan Reardon, Programme Director, Amnesty International Scotland, said:
“There are countless human rights abuses as a result of irresponsible, unscrutinised business practices, including modern day slavery, forced labour, human trafficking, and corporations fuelling conflict through illegal trade. The links between business and human rights are inextricable which is why the UN produced a globally applicable set of guidelines for governments, all those in business activity, to ensure effective respect for human rights.

“By omitting any regard to these guidelines, known as the 'Ruggie Principles', when making decisions on how to spend £10bn of public money, the Scottish Government has missed an opportunity to ensure that purchasing decisions respect, rather than potentially violate, human rights.
“We welcome assurances by the Deputy First Minister that the government views the development of guidance as an important opportunity to identify and explain how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will be reflected in the procurement process.

“We are keen to work with the Scottish Government and partners in Scotland's public, private and voluntary sectors to ensure public bodies promote and protect human rights when making decisions about how to spend public money. We need to send a clear message that respecting human rights is fundamental to doing business in Scotland.”

Patrick Harvie MSP, whose proposed amendment to the Procurement (Reform) Scotland Bill was not passed, said: "Ministers had a clear opportunity today to signal that global companies wanting public contracts must take their human rights obligations seriously. I'm disappointed that they failed to take that opportunity, and I urge them to rectify this with the strongest possible guidance to public bodies."

ENDS

Amnesty International Scotland media information:
Pauline Kelly: 0131 718 6687 / 07818 453070
Pauline.kelly@amnesty.org.uk
Follow us on Twitter:@AmnestyScotland

NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Procurement (Reform) Scotland Bill aims to improve the way the public sector buys goods, works and services.

The Bill was unanimously passed by MSPs on Tuesday 13 May 2014.

Amendment 32 in the name of Patrick Harvie MSP, placed a duty on Scottish Ministers to have regard to the 'Ruggie Principles' when preparing subsequent guidance to the Bill.

Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP), states that in 2014: “The Scottish and UK Governments, Scottish Businesses and the Scottish Human Rights Commission will pursue the development of an action plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by Scotland and raise awareness among Scottish companies of their human rights responsibilities.”

The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, often referred to as the ‘Ruggie Principles’, provide a globally applicable set of guidance for governments, businesses and other actors towards ensuring effective respect for human rights in the context of business activities.

Under the ‘Ruggie Principles’, states have a positive duty to take all necessary steps to prevent business-related human rights violations. This includes ensuring an adequate and effective regulatory framework for business activities; ensuring human rights are embedded in all areas of legislation and policy-making; and promoting commitment to human rights among businesses. In addition, governments shall promote respect for human rights by businesses with which they conduct commercial transactions.

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