NEW legislation is being considered by the Scottish Government which would see Scotland taking a global lead on human rights.

On International Human Rights Day tomorrow, the First Minister’s Advisory Group will recommend that internationally recognised human rights are incorporated into Scots law.

It is intended that a new Act would establish a human rights framework setting out in one place for the first time the rights belonging to everyone in Scotland.

It would include rights already provided by the Human Rights Act and additional rights drawn from UN treaties including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

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The announcement will be made to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights alongside a programme of events at the Scottish Parliament, where key speakers will include rights campaigner Bianca Jagger.

“There is an urgent need of human rights leadership in today’s world, so we were delighted that the First Minister asked us for recommendations on how Scotland can lead by example,” said the advisory group’s chair, Professor Alan Miller.

READ MORE: Make the right to food part of Scots law

“The leadership steps that Scotland needs to take are clear. The internationally recognised human rights belong to everyone in Scotland and must be put into our law. As importantly, they must then be put into everyday practice. In this way people are empowered to lead lives of human dignity, to have a sense of self-worth.”

Operating independently from the Scottish Government, the Advisory Group was set up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as part of the 2018 Programme for Government.
The announcement has been welcomed by campaigners who believe it is a “huge step forward”.

“It is a big deal to say we are going to put this into law rather than just policy,” said Pete Ritchie, director of Nourish Scotland which has been advocating a right to food to be set in law. “It is a massive step forward and will put Scotland in the lead – the Scottish First Minister is so much more positive than the people at Westminster.”

However he said that rather than wait for the right to food to be included in the new Act, which may not come into being until the next Parliament, it should be incorporated into the new Good Food Nation Bill which is expected to go out for consultation before the New Year.

He said this would mean UK policies like the hated Universal Credit could be challenged in court.

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“Universal Credit is clearly retrogressive: it is making many people destitute so they simply can’t afford to buy food,” he pointed out. “But at the moment it can’t be challenged in a UK court because the right to food has not been brought into domestic law. If it were in UK law, then the Government could be taken to court.

RITCHIE added: “This Bill will be a first in Europe to create a legal framework for a cross-cutting food policy which can tackle the multiple challenges of our current food system. It must have the right to food at its heart.

READ MORE: There is potential for Scotland to take bold action on human rights

‘‘This is a right established in international law which provides the foundation for a fair and sustainable approach to food in Scotland. It means that Government is committed to and accountable for tackling the injustices in our food system.

‘‘We can’t tolerate a system where in our land of food and drink tens of thousands of households can’t afford to put food on the table every day, while so many jobs in food are insecure and poorly paid.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the new Good Food Nation Bill was due to go out for consultation in the “next couple of weeks”.