Disabled people in Scotland could be set for “ground-breaking” improvements to the “protection, progression, and promotion” of their human rights, after their government pledged to incorporate the UN disability convention into Scottish law.
The promise came as the Scottish government accepted the 30 recommendations made in a report by the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.
Among the taskforce’s recommendations is to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – as well as three other UN human rights treaties – into Scots law, although it recognises that there would have to be a “progressive” realisation of these rights.
Inclusion Scotland, the national disabled people’s organisation, said the measures were potentially ground-breaking.
But it warned that their introduction would depend on the outcome of May’s Scottish parliament elections, and the detail of future legislation.
Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland’s director of policy and research, said: “Disabled Scots have been calling for full and direct incorporation of the convention for years.
“This is ground-breaking stuff, and it signals greater protection, progression, and promotion of our human rights.
“It should mean that disabled people will have rights across all the convention articles, including the right to independent living.
“We would want to see services and support on tap, not on top, to support us to enjoy our rights to full and equal participation in our communities in ways we chose ourselves.
“We will be calling on the new Scottish government to ensure that disabled people and our disabled people’s organisations are closely involved in the development of the bill and that this happens as early as possible in the next parliament.
“Delay is not an option, the time for action is now.”
Dr Jim Elder-Woodward, chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, said that any new law must also be “effective at all levels of government and within private, third sector and public sector organisations”.
He said: “At the moment these sectors do not always operate cohesively.”
Scotland’s equalities secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, who co-chaired the taskforce, said that, if the SNP wins power again in May’s election, a new bill would be introduced in the new parliament’s first session that would incorporate the UN treaties into Scots law.
She said: “A multi-treaty human rights bill of this nature, that will also contain a range of other rights on the environment, older people, and access to justice, is unprecedented and will make Scotland a world leader in human rights.”
UNCRPD is currently not incorporated into UK law, or that of the devolved governments.
This means that its protections, including article 19, which provides a right to independent living, are not legally binding in the UK, although they can influence UK court decisions.
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