Issue 8: January 2014


By Professor Alan Miller, Chair, Scottish Human Rights Commission

Scotland’s first National Action Plan for Human Rights was launched on 10th December 2013, International Human Rights Day. SNAP is a groundbreaking, innovative and ambitious plan to progressively achieve the full realisation of human rights in Scotland. Its vision is clear: Scotland should be a country where everyone is able to live with dignity.

We were joined at the launch by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Mui┼żnieks alongside a wide range of representatives from civil society, rights based organisations, public bodies and government representatives. The Action Plan was well received and the energy, motivation and enthusiasm of those present reassured me that the implementation of the Plan will bring real progress in human rights across the country.

… the vision is clear: Scotland should be a country where everyone is able to live with dignity.

SNAP has been developed in an unprecedented process over the past four years. As well as extensive research and evidence gathering, there has been intense participation and collaboration with people who use services and with the public and voluntary organisations which deliver them. Both the Drafting Group which has collectively drafted SNAP and the Advisory Council were made up of organisations and individuals who reflect the broad spectrum of Scottish life. Their involvement has brought a wealth of experience, creativity and direct contact with people, which has hugely influenced the direction of SNAP.

Why do we need SNAP? Scotland must improve its record of promoting and protecting human rights on the ground, in people’s everyday lives. Evidence shows that laws and policies, often designed with the best of intentions, are not consistently delivering good practice in care homes, schools, hospitals or in our justice system. Human rights can often be an after-thought, applied inconsistently, or are simply perceived as a complicated legal area that organisations feel frightened of tackling. It is time for meaningful change in the way human rights are perceived, understood and applied in Scotland. SNAP is a roadmap to realising the human rights that we are all entitled to and that are provided in international law.

In other countries, national action plans for human rights have resulted in real changes, for example by improving protection from abuse, and reducing the use of measures such as restraint. SNAP has followed best international practice, but has also gone beyond the sort of traditional action plan of top down tick lists.The process launched  is a transformative and collaborative programme of action, including agreed outcomes, priorities and a process for working together to deliver sustainable culture change.

SNAP will pursue three outcomes. It will promote people’s participation, the integration of human rights into day to day decision making and accountability, so as to develop a Better Culture. Current challenges are addressed through putting human rights into practice in the areas of health and social care, standard of living and justice and safety for all so as to help enable us all to enjoy Better Lives. It also helps open up Scotland to learn from the experience of others while making sure it meets its own responsibilities to contribute to a Better World.

The model for change which SNAP promotes is a “human rights based approach” which emphasises participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and legality (“PANEL”).  This has several proven benefits: upholding the rights of everyone, supporting person centred services, helping good decision making, improving institutional culture and relationships and, finally, ensuring legal compliance and promoting best practice.

Evidence shows that laws and policies, often designed with the best of intentions, are not consistently delivering good practice in care homes, schools, hospitals or in our justice system.

SNAP will coordinate action by a wide range of public bodies and voluntary organisations. Some commitments have already been made – for example, Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, COSLA and the Health and Social Care Alliance will design and lead a programme of work to ensure that human rights is put at the heart of the integration of health and social care including in outcome measures, guidance, and workforce development. Police Scotland will identify opportunities to further embed human rights within the structures and culture of policing. The Scottish Government, in partnership with the third sector, will work with COSLA and the NHS to pursue a human rights based approach to independent living. These initial commitments, among others, demonstrate the breadth and scale of the changes which are possible.

SNAP has been, and will continue to be, a collaborative process. Its success is dependent on the effective coordination of work across all the areas that affect peoples’ lives in Scotland. SNAP will be delivered by an expanding coalition of public bodies and voluntary organisations. It will be underpinned by a constructive process of accountability including independent monitoring and evaluation, annual reports to the Scottish Parliament and an annual National InterAction with broad participation to review progress and address challenges. Organisations will be encouraged to identify, promote and replicate good practice and to innovate. Through Innovations Forums there will be opportunities to learn about practice across Scotland and the world and testing out new ways of seeking to address both old and new challenges.

I am confident that SNAP will be an effective method of bringing human rights into peoples’ everyday lives and will give us in Scotland the chance to demonstrate how human rights can be used to improve peoples’ lives both home and abroad.

Professor Alan Miller is  Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission 

By Professor Alan Miller, Chair, Scottish Human Rights Commission

Issue 8: January 2014

Issue 8: January 2014


Smart Cities: Smart Services: Smart Working Editorial

In focusing on 'Smart Cities' let's start with a few teaser questions (answers at the foot of this column)...


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