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Organisations commit to human rights plan

Police Scotland must ensure that powers such as stop and search are used consistently with human rights, and new training will help them do so, according to a leading expert.

Professor Alan Miller was speaking at the launch of Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP).

Professor Miller, director of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), said the new national police force had committed to increase human rights training for officers.

"One benefit will be to ensure that stop and search is exercised in a way consistent with the legal framework where there is reasonable suspicion, and not according to targets or profiling," he said.

The commitment from the police was to embed human rights in the structures and culture of policing, and would have a wider impact, Mr Miller said. "Overall this will increase public confidence in the way in which the police use the very big powers society grants them."

Police Scotland is just one of dozens of public bodies to have signed up to the principles in the SNAP report.

These include the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Health and Social Care Alliance. All have said they will put human rights at the heart of the current health and social care integration agenda.

NHS Health Scotland is to promote a human rights approach to the reduction of health inequalities and the same principles will be used by the Scottish Government, Cosla, the NHS and charities to underpin polices on independent living and self-directed support for people with disabilities and learning disabilities.

The Scottish Government is also to ensure human rights are central to reform of the criminal justice system in Scotland and has said it will work with others, including the SHRC, to monitor the way human rights are affected by impending changes.

The SNAP project is the outcome of four years of research and consultation by the SHRC.

It is a first for the UK and was hailed at its launch by the council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks, who said: "Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights is a bold venture, which aims to bring human rights home in people's everyday life."

Human rights could not be seen as expendable at a time of austerity, he said, adding: "Human rights provide a universal normative framework within which government's economic and social policies must function.

"The Scottish National Action Plan lays the foundation for a culture of human rights in Scotland, which puts people at the centre of society."

Part of the intention of the action plan is to ensure human rights have a more prominent role in the public mind. At the launch it was suggested that while Scots have a strong sense of fairness, justice and equality, the concept of human rights has yet to become strongly embedded in the public consciousness.

Mr Miller said that it was relevant to the lives of everybody, whether in relation to the right to work, gender equality, the blacklisting of construction employees or the impact of hate crime.

People don't know enough about how human rights affect their lives, he said.

"When we started this process, [former Irish president] Mary Robinson told us we need to make human rights much more user-friendly and integrated into the daily life of ordinary people, particularly the most marginalised," he said.

"This means looking at things like the lack of dignity in care homes and filling those gaps by increasing the power people have to assert their rights."

He added: "Scotland is taking a big step towards building a country where everyone can live a life of human dignity.

"The Scottish Parliament has human rights at its heart. It created the Scottish Human Rights Commission and SNAP is the next step on Scotland's journey to progressively realise internationally agreed human rights for the benefit of everyone."

At the launch, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "This Government is committed to building a modern, inclusive Scotland which protects, respects and realises everyone's human rights.

"The Plan is an important milestone in our journey to create a Scotland which acts as a beacon of progress internationally. We will continue to work with the SHRC to make rights a reality for all in Scotland."

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