About this briefing for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election

The Equality and Human Rights Commission exists to protect and promote equality and human rights. We stand up for freedom, compassion and justice in changing times. Our work is driven by a simple belief: if everyone gets a fair chance, we all thrive.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has held up a mirror to our society. Reflected back, we have seen the best of our communities: nurses, doctors, cleaners, delivery people, carers, teachers, retail staff and many others working tirelessly to protect us and to meet our needs; and communities mobilising to take care of and support those most at risk.

But the pandemic – along with protests at home and abroad in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota – has forcefully reminded us of the many significant inequalities that persist in Scotland. From those in precarious work – who are more likely to be younger, from some ethnic minorities, or women – who had no option but to work through lockdown because they could not afford not to, to the prevalence of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, to disabled and older people questioning how their dignity – and even their lives – have factored into our health and social care planning.

These inequalities are not new, but the pandemic has helped us to see them more clearly. We do not want to see a ‘return to normal’. ‘Normal’ created these inequalities. What comes next must be different.

We believe Scotland has the opportunity, the capability, and the will to tackle these inequalities and become a fairer, more prosperous and inclusive society – if that will is reflected in the next Scottish Parliament.

Our shared mission

Our shared mission and commitment is to protect, promote and enhance equality and human rights for everyone in Scotland. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland are calling on Scotland’s political parties to put tackling inequality and enhancing human rights at the heart of their manifestos for the next Parliament, including commitments to progress the incorporation of international human rights treaties into Scots law.

Pre-existing inequalities in society have been highlighted and reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic and responses to it. Significant gaps in equality and human rights protection are experienced by particular groups including people living in poverty, Black and ethnic minority people, women, children, disabled people, older people, people with chronic health conditions, people seeking asylum and people whose lived experience includes more than one of these. 

As Scotland continues to deal with COVD-19, we call on all parties to adopt a human rights-based approach and to mainstream equality to inform our response to the pandemic. Looking to the future, this approach can also help ground and guide robust plans for economic recovery and social renewal.

Scotland requires a binding – not guiding – human rights framework, incorporating and building upon international standards, to support and enable public authorities to proactively respect, protect and fulfil human rights and promote equality. This framework can also empower people to know their rights and participate in decisions affecting them. It will help Scotland keep pace with international developments.

This is more important than ever in the context of the UK’s exit from the European Union and the resulting loss of protections provided by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Scotland’s equality and human rights bodies welcome cross-party commitments to this effect and will positively work to support the Parliament in its role as human rights guarantor.

Last updated: 05 Nov 2020