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Publish human rights advice, Commission proposes to Holyrood

1 May 2017

Stronger checks on legislative competence in relation to human rights, including the publication of advice provided to the Presiding Officer, have been called for by the Scottish Human Rights Commission in its submission to the Scottish Parliament's Commission on Parliamentary Reform.

In the wake of a number of successful challenges in the courts to Holyrood legislation as conflicting with the European Convention on Human Rights – which the Parliament is bound to observe – the human rights body also believes there should be a broader statement of compliance from the Presiding Officer and the member in charge of a bill covering all applicable international obligations; additional checks for human rights compliance for amendments and subordinate legislation; "effective and transparent" human rights impact assessments; and expert analysis of human rights issues made available to MSPs for all aspects of their parliamentary work.

In relation to the human rights judgments of both domestic and international courts, the Commission believes the Parliament should undertake systematic scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s response to court judgments against it concerning human rights, and require ministers to report at least annually to the Parliament on their responses to human rights judgments.

More broadly, the Commission recommends that the Scottish Parliament should:

  • further embed a rights based approach in structures and processes to strengthen its effectiveness to deliver the best outcomes for the lives of people in Scotland;
  • work with international partners to ensure that Scotland learns from developing good practice;
  • build MSP and staff capacity in relation to human rights to ensure that the Parliament is able to act as a human rights guarantor; and
  • work with the Commission in accordance with the Belgrade Principles, which provide guidance on the relationships between national human rights institutions and Parliaments to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights.

Chaired by John McCormick, former Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, the independent Commission on Parliamentary Reform is considering ways in which the Holyrood Parliament can ensure the right checks and balances for the effective conduct of parliamentary business, increase its engagement with wider society and the public, and clarify its identity as distinct from the Scottish Government.

Click here to access the full recommendations.


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