The Scotland Act 2016 devolves new social security powers to the Scottish Parliament. Although its new powers are limited, accounting for only 15% of expenditure on non-pension benefits, the Scottish Government has given an ambitious set of commitments for a devolved system. “Respect for the dignity of individuals” is at the heart of this vision. Social security is recognised in international human rights law as being crucial to the protection of human dignity. While human dignity is a core concept in human rights law, it is a poorly defined one and respect has no legal definition.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission contracted Ulster University to look at how social security systems in other countries encompass dignity and respect. This report of their research proposes a legally-grounded definition of dignity and respect and discusses possible means of embedding dignity and respect as core principles underpinning social security in Scotland.