• A New Scottish Human Rights Act: CTA’s Response

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    • A New Scottish Human Rights Act: CTA’s Response
    • by David Kelly
      Director for Scotland

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    Human rights are under attack or in retreat around the world. In Scotland, however, our government is considering how to protect and expand our rights by incorporating major international human rights treaties into Scots law.

    Human rights are inherent to all of us as human beings, regardless of our race, ethnicity or nationality, our age, gender or sexual orientation or any other status or characteristic. The most fundamental human rights include things like the rights to life and liberty or freedom of speech and assembly. We are all entitled to claim and exercise these rights without discrimination wherever and whoever we are.

    These rights have been agreed and codified by governments and civil society around the world in a number of important treaties, which the UK has signed up to implement, in the 20th and 21st centuries from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 onwards.

    In 1998, the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into domestic law and the devolution settlement through the Human Rights Act and the Scotland Act, which reconvened the Scottish Parliament.

    But we need to go further, because we know that every day in Scotland many people are having their rights ignored, denied or violated:

    • Disabled people and older people are often excluded from public spaces and services due to a failure to make our buildings, neighbourhoods and transport fully accessible
    • LGBTI people and ethnic or religious minorities often face abuse and harassment on our streets and discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace, housing and healthcare
    • Refugees and people seeking asylum fleeing war and persecution may struggle to integrate in our society without the right support or exercise their right to claim asylum in a place of safety

    By bridging the gaps and responding to unmet transport needs, Community Transport acts as an enabler of human rights. Much of our sector only exists because the rest of our transport network systemically fails to respect everyone’s human rights – from a lack of public transport in rural areas to an absence of step-free access at train stations and bus stops.

    (Shockingly, UK train stations won’t be fully accessible until 2070 at the current rate of progress.)

    Community Transport empowers people to access amenities and public services, from shops to colleges to hospitals, from which they might otherwise be excluded. Your passengers rely on your services to exercise all kinds of rights – including the right to access to transportation, to live independently and be included in the community and to personal mobility.

    The Scottish Government is proposing to draft and pass a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland by the end of the current parliamentary session, which concludes in May 2026. It argues that:

    Embedding international human rights in Scotland will further emphasise the importance of all people being treated with dignity, and ensure that human rights play an even more central role in our strategies, policies and decision-making processes across all areas of government and the wider public sector.

    The Scottish Government is proposing to incorporate the following into Scots law:

    Our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to a refreshed and more ambitious approach to human rights in Scotland and the opportunity to respond to its consultation. We agree that we need to empower everyone to access and enforce their rights – and we need to ensure all public bodies have the expertise and resources they need to respect everyone’s rights.

    In our submission, which you can download here, we make clear that CTA:

    • Strongly supports the incorporation of the four treaties plus a new right to a healthy environment into Scots law through the Bill
    • Calls for public bodies to have a duty to comply with the rights of disabled people in the CRPD to ensure they can be legally enforced, such as the right to:
      • Accessibility in transportation
      • Live independently and be included in the community
      • Personal mobility
    • Believes that the duties in the Bill should apply to all public bodies as far as possible and as soon as possible
    • Urges the UK Government and the Scottish Government to work together to protect and expand human rights in Scotland in a comprehensive and consistent way
    • Requests greater clarity in the Bill on how the duties will apply to private businesses and third sector organisations, such as Community Transport operators, providing ‘public functions’ like local buses
    • Raises concerns about the speed of implementation and argues that the Bill should present a clear timetable for the enforcement of the duties and the publication of guidance for public bodies and others
    • Joins civil society in arguing for specific clauses which protect the rights of LGBTI people and older people, as there is no international treaty protecting their rights, to tackle homophobia, transphobia and ageism
    • Calls for the limited powers of the Scottish Human Rights Commission to be strengthened and extended to improve scrutiny of public bodies and public services – including the creation of new commissioners for:
      • Women
      • Disabled people
      • Older people
      • Ethnic and religious minorities
      • LGBTI people

    In addition to responding to this consultation on behalf of our members, we’re stepping up our efforts to advance human rights in Scotland by:

    If you’d like to find out more, read our full response here or drop me an email at david.kelly@ctauk.org.

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