Human Rights and the Scottish Parliament


About the Inquiry

Human rights are woven into the fabric of the Scottish Parliament - aren't they?


When the Parliament was founded, it was written into the Scotland Act 1998 (the legislation that established the Scottish Parliament) that all laws we make must be compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

Human rights issues have always been considered by the Parliamentary committees, but in 2016 they were added to the remit of a single committee. The Equal Opportunities Committee became the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, with a particular responsibility for looking at human rights issues.


To make sure we adopt the best possible approach to considering human rights, the Committee decided to gather evidence through an inquiry. This was agreed by the Committee on 6 October 2016.

In broad terms the inquiry will consider human rights under three main themes: participation and engagement, Parliamentary procedure and process, and accountability. For example--

Participation and engagement

  • Can the Scottish Parliament empower people to make them more aware of their rights under domestic and international human rights law and to build a strong human rights culture in Scotland? 

Parliamentary procedure and process

  • Are there further steps the Scottish Parliament could take to ensure that people’s human rights are being taken into consideration when the Scottish Government and public authorities are creating policies?


  • Could the Scottish Parliament do more to ensure that international human laws, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international human rights obligations are being followed in Scotland?

A phased approach

It was agreed the inquiry would be conducted in two phases.

Phase one: To seek written briefing on the scrutiny of human rights and equalities by other legislatures in the UK; international comparisons of best practice in the monitoring and scrutiny of human rights, and baseline information on UN concluding observations relevant to Scotland. This information would then inform the next phase.

Phase two: To seek the views of an expert panel to shape the engagement activities and public evidence gathering. Also, to undertake a fact-finding visit to European Institutions, based in Strasbourg.

Commission on Parliamentary Reform

During Phase one of the inquiry, the Committee wrote to the Commission on Parliamentary Reform advising that it had commenced preliminary work on an inquiry into human rights. In its Report of 20 June 2017, at Recommendation 30, the Commission said:

 "We refer the proposals raised with us on the Parliament’s role as a human rights guarantor to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee to inform its inquiry work on this matter. We recognise the importance of the proposals made to us and consider that some of our other recommendations may also promote the delivery of a stronger human rights role for the Scottish Parliament."

The inquiry is expected to finalise its report in Autumn 2018

Background Briefings


On 21 January 2018 the Committee launched a call for evidence on the inquiry.

The call for evidence closed on 16 March 2018. See the call for evidence document for details-

Written submissions


Focus group sessions

The Committee undertook four public focus group sessions as part of the inquiry-

Visits and Events

Members of the Committee visited Strasbourg in April 2017.

The Committee held an event in the Parliament on 10 December 2018 to mark International Human Rights Day and to launch its report. The video of the event is available on Scottish Parliament TV:

Speakers and Panellists:

  • Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame MSP
  • Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, Ruth Maguire MSP
  • Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Judith Robertson
  • Video message: Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Video Message: Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Bianca Jagger, President, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
  • Hannah, Member of the Children's Parliament and Ryan McShane, MSYP
  • First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP
  • Poems from Oban High and Hyndland Secondary
  • Panel discussion with Amal Azzudin, Dr Donald Macaskill, Davie Donaldson and Dr Sally Witcher


As part of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee's Inquiry into Human Rights, the Committee wrote to the Presiding Officer and all other Committees to ask for their assistance in gathering information about how they interact with human rights issues.

 Other Correspondence


The Committee published its report on 26 November 2018.

The Committee received a response from the Scottish Government on 24 January 2019

The Committee received supplementary information from the Scottish Government on 25 April 2019

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