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Researcher’s key role in Scottish human rights debate

A key debate on human rights in Scotland hosted by the country’s government and its human rights commission has been informed by research carried out by Roehampton senior law lecturer Dr Katie Boyle.

Posted: 10 December 2015

image for news story  Researcher’s key role in Scottish human rights debate
Dr Katie Boyle.

Dr Boyle set out potential options for Scotland to protect these rights based on international best practice. Her research for the debate mapped the existing human rights framework in Scotland and set out potential constitutional models for their future legal protection.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered the keynote speech and emphasised her commitment to improving human rights protection in Scotland, with a commitment to implementing economic, social and cultural rights as part of the Government’s commitment to complying with international legal standards.

Dr Boyle said: “This is an extremely important conversation for Scotland to have, particularly given potential reform to the way in which human rights operate across the UK. The Westminster Government is considering proposals for a British Bill of Rights, which may replace the Human Rights Act 1998, and there are implications for human rights if the UK votes to leave the EU in the 2017 referendum.

“These potential changes could impact human rights protections significantly in all parts of the UK. Whilst the future is uncertain it seems devolved governments, particularly Scotland, are advancing towards better protection. This trend really puts Scotland at the forefront of international best practice.”

Dr Boyle said ESC rights, which protect areas like health, education, employment, housing and tackle issues such as social deprivation and poverty were not currently comprehensively protected at either the UK or devolved level.

Formal protection in law for these kinds of rights would mean remedies would be more readily available for those whose rights have been infringed

The research undertaken by Dr Boyle for the Scottish Human Rights Commission set out potential models that could be adopted in Scotland for a more robust human rights structure:

  • Economic, social and cultural rights could be protected through better use of existing human rights and equality frameworks. 
  • Potential new routes for legal protection in the short term – introducing a socio-economic equality duty(section 1 Equality Act 2010). The power to legislate in this area is currently being devolved to Scotland by Westminster through the Scotland Bill 2015-2016 . 
  • Potential future mechanisms including constitutional arrangements that incorporate international treaties directly into the devolved Scottish framework, including a potential Scottish Charter or Bill of Rights. Such constitutional mechanisms should also be supported with constitutional safeguards. 

Dr Boyle’s research proposes introducing, for the first time, a Human Rights Committee in the Scottish Parliament to oversee any changes which are taken forward as a result of this week’s debate.

Read the SHRC paper authored by Dr Boyle.
Study Law at Roehampton.
Discover the University’s Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research.

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