Human Rights Bill for Scotland

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) and representative members for the RSE of the UK & Ireland Academies Human Rights Committee’s, response to the Human Rights Bill for Scotland. This response draws on our Fellows and YAS member’s expertise on human rights and constitutional law. A working group was formed to contribute to this consultation response, and the comments from the working group have informed this response.


  • The RSE agrees that recognition of human dignity is inherent in human rights law. However, we have concerns that the application of the concept could be a problematic interpretive test for the courts to apply without careful application.
  • The RSE recommends that the Scottish Government should examine the application of dignity in other countries. And advise that guidance can be sought where the concept has already been applied in a judicial context.
  • The RSE believes there is great difficulty in enshrining socio-economic rights as positive, judicially enforceable obligations placed on the state. It is difficult to make such rights enforceable before the courts.
  • The RSE advises that a core aim for the government should be to produce clear, accessible, and workable laws. And not to set unrealistic expectations, such as the entrenchment of social and economic rights which are not then meaningfully enforceable.
  • There is a question of whether the proposed Bill might impinge on matters outside the Scottish Parliament’s competence. With the consequences which, as the Consultation Paper makes clear, the Scottish Government would prefer to avoid.
  • The right to a healthy environment is recognised in many countries through various means. Nevertheless, the scope and utility of this right remain subjects of ongoing debate.
  • The RSE encourages a clear and balanced outline of substantive and procedural aspects of the right to a healthy environment.

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