Today, the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published its report recommending the action needed to progress human rights in Scotland. Public Health Scotland (PHS), and NHS Health Scotland before that, has been represented on this group since its inception, alongside partners across the public and third sectors.

The report sets out over 30 recommendations, spanning legal, policy and systemic changes designed to support the progression of human rights in Scotland.

Claire Sweeney, Director of Place and Wellbeing at PHS, said:

"The report today and the recommendations within it have huge potential to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of the people of Scotland. This is a huge step forward for the realisation of the right to health in Scotland. Public health and human rights are intrinsically linked, and never before has that link been more important. Everyone in Scotland has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, yet we went into the pandemic with the worst health inequalities in western and central Europe. Scotland has a difference in healthy life expectancy between our most and least deprived areas of 24 years for women and 25 years for men. The gap is likely to widen without action to support and protect the right to health for the people most vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19. 

“To do this, everyone in Scotland must be able to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. That means that all of the things that support health and wellbeing (the social determinants of health) must be available, accessible, affordable and of high quality. To help make that happen, we have embedded a human rights-based approach to health and wellbeing in our first strategy as Scotland’s leading organisation on public health.  It is also why we particularly welcome the recommendation to make the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) part of the law in Scotland. Doing this would empower the people of Scotland to hold public bodies like ours, and the Scottish Government, to account. It would provide a legal basis for broader efforts to improve Scotland’s human rights culture.

“Organisations including health boards, local authorities and third sector organisations, have an important role in upholding the right to health. It is the work we all do collectively that can make a difference. We look forward to playing our part in implementing the recommendations of this report, to working with partners to do the same so that we can all support the realisation of the right to health and create a Scotland where everyone thrives”.

Read the report of the human rights taskforce (external website)

Read our report on taking a human rights-based approach to planning the response to, recovery from and services for the COVID-19 pandemic (external website)

Last updated: 06 October 2022