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Scottish Government’s Wider Implementation Working Group: The role of advocacy is key in ensuring human rights are upheld’

Polly Lord, Director of Engagement and Influencing 10 January 2024

We’re part of the Scottish Government’s Wider Implementation Group, currently examining proposals as part of a new Scottish Bill of Rights.

In Spring 2021, the Scottish Government announced that the following four UN treaties would be added to Scots law, as far as devolved competency allows: 

  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, established in December 2018, also set forth their recommendations, which Scottish Government have recently consulted on. 

The work of the Wider Implementation Group compliments other advisory bodies, including a Lived Experience Board. It meets bi-monthly, with the aim of exploring approaches to and requirements for implementation, including: 

  • how to embed implementation within the organisational cultures and operational design of public authorities and those delivering public services 
  • identifying any issues or barriers to implementation and considering ways to overcome these 

The role of advocacy, advice and signposting has been identified as a key mechanism to ensure that these rights are upheld. In the consultation, the Scottish Government noted: 

Advocacy services are there to provide support and representation to empower individuals to claim their rights. They are an important resource in helping to ensure individuals can realise their rights and access justice where things go wrong. Given routes to remedy can be complex, advocacy services can play a crucial role in helping rights-holders navigate the system.”

The importance of advocacy was highlighted through the Lived Experience Board, with one member commenting: 

I think advocacy is a big thing. I’m thinking about one time that I went to a review without an advocate, and that was a big mistake that I’ve never made twice.

Because there’s also an issue of when the authorities are acting in concert, there’s a lot of them and just one of you. So there’s a lot of voices against one voice, and you can’t win against that.”

They recommended that the Human Rights Bill should include a duty on local areas to provide access to specialist learning disability advocacy and legal support to support access to justice.”

So far, we have participated in two sessions: a broad overview and another on reporting duties. We welcome the opportunity to continue dialogue and support the policy initiatives proposed by the Lived Experience Board on how advocacy can give effect to these crucial rights.