Human rights law

The United Nations (UN) notes that: “A credible national action plan must be built on a commitment to universal human rights standards. An important element of any national action plan should be a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Embracing both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, it constitutes the foundation of the international human rights system.”

Following the UN guidance, SNAP is built on a commitment to universal human rights standards – those included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and a broad range of other human rights treaties.

Human Rights Treaties

The human rights that form the basis for SNAP are found in a range of international treaties that the UK, including Scotland, has signed up to, as well as domestic law. This section lists some of these. A helpful overview of the equalities and human rights legislative framework at international, UK and Scottish levels can be found in this 2021 Scottish Parliament briefing.

The International Bill of Human Rights

The UDHR is regarded as the foundation of the international human rights system. With two international human rights treaties, the UDHR forms the International Bill of Human Rights. These two treaties are:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The UK, including Scotland, has ratified both Covenants. The Scottish Government has committed to incorporating ICESCR into domestic Scots law.

International Human Rights Treaties

Other international treaties that form the basis of SNAP are:

  • Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
  • Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Convention Against Torture (CAT).
  • Convention on the Rights of Migrants and their Families (ICMW).

The UK, including Scotland, has ratified all these treaties except the ICMW. The Scottish Government has committed to incorporating CEDAW, CERD, CRPD, and CRC into domestic Scots law.

Council of Europe

The following Council of Europe treaties also form the basis of SNAP 2.

  • European Convention on Human Rights (EHRC).
  • European Social Charter (ESC).

Human Rights Act 1998 and Scotland Act 1998

The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) incorporates the EHRC into domestic UK law. The Scotland Act 1998 requires that all Scottish Parliament legislation must be compatible with the rights set out in the HRA.

Equality Framework

SNAP is also built on a commitment to UK equality law. This includes the following.

Devolved and Reserved Matters

Under the current constitutional arrangements, some issues are ‘reserved’ to the UK Parliament and some are ‘devolved’ to the Scottish Parliament. For example, immigration, defence and foreign affairs are reserved matters. Devolved matters include – but are not limited to – criminal and civil justice, education and early years, environment, health and social care, housing, and some aspects of social security and taxation. SNAP 2 actions will relate to devolved matters.

Human Rights Progressed by SNAP 2

SNAP 2 aims to help progress the realisation of the following human rights. These are found in the treaties listed above.   

  • Adequate Standard of Living, including Food, Housing, and Social Security.
  • Access to Justice. 
  • Education.
  • Equality and Freedom from Discrimination.
  • Freedom of Expression and Opinion.
  • Freedom of Religion.
  • Freedom from Violence, Abuse and Neglect.
  • Health.
  • Healthy Environment.
  • Information.
  • Participation.
  • Personal Autonomy, including Bodily Integrity.
  • Private and Family Life.
  • Work.

SNAP 2 also aim to promote and progress the realisation of rights of the following groups, amongst others.   

  • Black and Minority Ethnic People.
  • Care Experience People.
  • Children and Young People.
  • Disabled People, including People with Learning Disabilities and Autistic People.  
  • LGBTQIA+ People.
  • Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
  • People on Low Incomes.
  • People with Mental Health Conditions.
  • Scottish Gypsy/Travellers.
  • Older People.
  • Unpaid Carers.
  • Women and Girls.

Human rights are universal and belong to everyone. However, people who are in the most vulnerable situations and who face the biggest barriers to realising their rights should be prioritised. In SNAP 2, these rights holders are called “people whose rights are most at risk.”

Taking an intersectional approach to actions is also imperative. In SNAP 2, the term ‘intersectionality’ is used to describe the intersection of different and multiple characteristics that create interdependent and complex systems of power, discrimination and disadvantage.

Human Rights Principles

SNAP is guided and underpinned by human rights principles that are based on the well-regarded PANEL Principles of a human rights-based approach. These cut across all SNAP 2 actions.

In addition, there are other important human rights principles that underpin SNAP 2, like ‘progressive realisation’ and ‘non-retrogression’. These are set out in Appendix 5 of the action plan document, and a comprehensive overview is available from the United Nations (UN).

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