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Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership: terms of reference

Published: 19 Mar 2018

Terms of reference for the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.


1. The Scottish Government's programme for 2017-18 (A Nation with Ambition, Sept 2017) identifies actions which the Scottish Ministers intend to take to further promote and uphold the values of an open, inclusive, diverse, tolerant and progressive democracy.

2. Ministers are committed, in particular, to respecting, protecting and implementing internationally-recognised human rights, and to embedding equality, dignity and respect in everything they do. Taking concerted action to give practical effect to human rights for all members of society is a core function of Scotland's national government.

3. The Scottish Government is, accordingly, pursuing a programme of activity which places human rights, equality and human dignity at the heart of public policy in Scotland. It is also working to protect human, environmental, employment and other rights from the threats posed by UK withdrawal from the European Union. Together with partners across the public, private and third sectors, and in conjunction with wider civil society and members of the general public, the Scottish Government will continue to pursue its vision of an inclusive, fair, prosperous, innovative country which is ready and willing to embrace the future.

4. In order to support and inform that work, and to encourage both leadership and constructive challenge in the field of human rights, the Programme for Government ("PfG") undertakes to:

  • establish an expert advisory group to lead a participatory process to make recommendations on how Scotland can continue to lead by example in human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights

Purpose of the Group

5. To make recommendations to the First Minister, before the end of December 2018, on how Scotland can continue to lead by example in human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

Name of the Group

6. The Group will be known as the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership ("the Group"). The following abbreviations may also be used: "The FM's Human Rights Leadership Group"; the "Human Rights Leadership Group"; "HRLG").

Status of the Group

7. The Group is an independent and time-limited advisory group. It has no executive functions. It will report, through the Chair, to the First Minister.

Reporting and Lifetime of the Group

8. The Chair will provide updates to the First Minister on the progress of the Group's work, in keeping with a timetable to be agreed by the First Minister.

9. The Chair will present an interim report before the end of August 2018. The format and content of the report will be determined by the Chair following consultation with the First Minister.

10. The full report of the Group, with specific recommendations to the Scottish Government, will be presented to the First Minister by the end of December 2018. The principal findings and recommendations will be available for publication and/or debate (in a form to be agreed by the First Minister) in time for Human Rights Day (10 December) 2018.

Participative Process

11. The overall work of the group will be informed by a participatory process, which the Group will lead.

12. That process will ensure that the recommendations developed by the Group are underpinned by a participative and deliberative approach which reaches beyond those who already have access to power and influence in Scottish society. Human rights belong to everyone, and it is essential that voices from all walks of life and from every corner of the nation are heard (lbid).

Reference Group

13. The Group will be further supported in its work by a Reference Group consisting of individuals drawn from across Scottish society and mobilising, in particular, the knowledge and expertise which resides within civil society and the public, private and third sectors.

14. The Reference Group will be convened by the Chair of the First Minister's Advisory Group. The frequency and location of meetings will be determined by the Chair in consultation with members of the Reference Group.

Further Guiding Principles

15. The work of the Group will take appropriate account of topical concerns, including the implications for human rights of UK withdrawal from the European Union. There is a recognised need to consider how best to protect and promote all human rights across the full range of potential post-Brexit scenarios.

16. The First Minister's Standing Council on Europe has articulated three fundamental principles which are likely to inform the work of the Group:

  • there should be "non-regression" from current EU rights
  • there should be nobody left behind future progressive EU developments in rights
  • Scotland should "take a lead" in the protection and promotion of all human rights

17. The emphasis on Scotland continuing to "take a lead" directly informs the purpose and remit of the Group and is relevant not just in the context of Brexit but also to the next potential steps in Scotland's human rights journey.

18. That includes consideration of the potential effects of incorporating international human rights treaties into domestic law, and the means by which this might in practice be undertaken. Such treaties, which have been ratified by the United Kingdom, are already part of the international legal obligations referred to within the Scotland Act 1998, but the Group will wish to explore how such obligations might be given further effect in law, policy and practice within Scotland. In doing so, the Group will consider related issues, such as the extent to which incorporation might have wider constitutional or other implications, including for the relationship between the courts, the legislature and the executive.

19. The PfG also commits the Scottish Government to examining how Scotland can go further to embed human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ("UNCRC") (A Nation with Ambition, Sept 2017, "The actions we will take over the next year will include … a comprehensive audit on the most effective and practical way to further embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into policy and legislation, including the option of full incorporation into domestic law"). Work relating to the UNCRC will be taken forward as a separate initiative.

20. It will however be important for the Group to liaise closely with that work, in particular in relation to matters of mutual interest. The Chair will ensure effective engagement by the Group with this and other relevant activity.

Membership [See Annex A]

21. Members (including the Chair) serve in a personal capacity unless otherwise indicated. Members serve at the invitation of the First Minister.

22. Additional members may be invited to serve on the Group following consultation between the Chair and the First Minister. Any proposal for additional members will be informed by the initial research and deliberation undertaken by the Group, by the requirements of the participation process and by gap analysis of existing work on human rights safeguards and implementation in Scotland.

23. The Chair will give specific consideration to options for including one or more persons with "direct lived experience" of relevant human rights issues as members of the Group.

Annex A

Name Background / Experience Interests / Area of Expertise
Prof Alan Miller (Chair Former Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission; member of First Minister's Standing Council on Europe; current Special Envoy of the UN Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions; independent expert with UNDP's Crisis Response Unit Scotland's human rights journey within its European and global context; experience and expertise gained as a past Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and past Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions
Dr Tobias Lock Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe and University of Edinburgh EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
Prof Nicole Busby Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe and University of Strathclyde EU employment and equality rights
Dr Katie Boyle University of Roehampton Models of Incorporation of international human rights obligations into the governance of Scotland
Shelagh McCall QC Member of the Faculty of Advocates and former part-time member of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Incorporation of international human rights obligations into judicial system of Scotland
Prof Paul Hunt University of Essex; former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; former member of the UN Committee on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights International experience of implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, with emphasis on health
Prof Aoife Nolan University of Nottingham; member of the Council of Europe's European Committee on Social Rights Economic and social rights, children's rights and human rights budgeting
Prof Elisa Morgera Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe and University of Strathclyde Environmental Rights
Judith Robertson Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (Representing the Commission) SHRC and participative processes
19 Mar 2018
Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership: terms of reference