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UK: 120 leading organisations call on First Minister to keep Human Rights Bill promise

Human Rights Bill is key to John Swinney achieving goal of tackling child poverty

‘People especially [from the Lived Experience Boards] deserve to see the Scottish government deliver on bringing forward a bill very soon’ - Mhairi Snowden

‘We urge the First Minister and his new Cabinet to push on with the bill and help to create the more just Scotland that we all want to see’ - Neil Cowan

One hundred and twenty charities, civil society organisations and academics have written to First Minister John Swinney urging him to keep the SNP’s manifesto promise to introduce a flagship Human Rights Bill.

In the letter leading campaigning organisations - including Amnesty International, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Shelter Scotland and the Poverty Alliance - said that the legislation will be key to achieving the First Minister’s priorities, including his stated mission of tackling child poverty.

The organisations are calling on the First Minister:

“As you know, the task before you is vast and urgent. Children across Scotland are going hungry as families are pulled deeper into poverty, more households than ever before are stuck in temporary accommodation for months on end, disabled and older people are being refused the social care support that they desperately need, and some Scots can’t access the medical care they have a right to. These are just some of the human rights emergencies being experienced by people in Scotland today.”

The bill - which will enshrine UN treaties and strong legal protections for everyday rights like access to safe housing, food and the best standard of health into Scots law - was due to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament this month. The campaigners have warned it must not be delayed.

Mhairi Snowden, Director of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, said Scotland’s civil society and people affected by poverty and inequality have poured effort into shaping the plans:

“For years many of us have given massive time and resource to ensuring international rights are incorporated into law in Scotland in a way that will truly transform the way people access their fundamental rights.

“We have been involved in Scottish government working groups, and there have been three Lived Experience Boards where individuals have given their time to help shape the plans. Those people especially deserve to see the Scottish Government deliver on bringing forward a Bill very soon.”

Neil Cowan, Amnesty International UK’s Scotland Programme Director, said:

“The First Minister has spoken in recent days about prioritising tackling child poverty and social inequality. Those are welcome and encouraging words, but what people in communities across Scotland need are those words to be transformed into action.

“Putting human rights at the heart of the Government’s agenda, by prioritising the Human Rights Bill, would help to do just that. We urge the First Minister and his new Cabinet to push on with the Bill and help to create the more just Scotland that we all want to see.”

About the Human Rights Bill

The Scottish government's proposed Human Rights Bill will bring four United Nations international human rights treaties into the law in Scotland - the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Conventions on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities -  and will recognise and include the right to a healthy environment.

The Scottish government consulted on the bill last year, resulting in overwhelming support for it. The bill’s overarching aim is to make fundamental human rights a reality for everyone in Scotland. Civil society organisations across Scotland have long been campaigning for it and it was included within the SNP’s 2021 manifesto.

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