When the Minister for Business wrote earlier in September to inform me that the Scottish Government had published new guidance on “human rights reputational risk management for investment decisions”, I was cautiously optimistic.

For the last two years I’ve worked to uncover how much funding the Scottish Government gives to arms dealers, including those implicated in alleged war crimes and the slaughter of children in Yemen. Any action putting an end to this atrocious misuse of public funds should be welcomed. Maybe they were finally listening.

Unfortunately, that is far from what’s happened here.

The name should be the first warning; human rights reputational risk management. This is not about assessing human rights, it’s about assessing the potential damage to the funder’s reputation by association with those whose human rights records are abysmal.

That being said, even if the aim is not so noble, new guidance could still have a positive effect.

This isn’t really new guidance or a Scottish Government production either though. It is mostly links to work by other bodies – the United Nations, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Initiative and others.

Make no mistake, these are certainly useful resources, but by doing little more than signposting to external initiatives it is not clear what exactly the government is asking of its agencies providing these handouts. It’s impossible to avoid a feeling of this being no more than lip-service to dampen the bad press they’ve received weekly as a result of our work.

Along with its reliance on links to other bodies, the wording of the guidance itself indicates that it is not compulsory. In its few pages, it only sets out recommendations and describes its own content as advice.

The language itself is not definitive. It suggests what kind of assessments should be conducted, but also states that the detail of what is checked is ultimately a matter of judgement by whomever has initiated the relationship. Due regard for human rights seems to rely more on agencies deciding themselves to follow the external links provided than on any clear instructions from the Scottish Government.

I’ve asked the government to explain exactly what status this guidance has and provide copies of any human rights assessments recently carried out, to give us a clearer picture of what’s going on. Given the lack of transparency we’ve faced so far, going as far as an Information Commissioner ruling that they breached Freedom of Information law, I expect this will take months yet again.

In the meantime, more children will die at the hands of arms dealers funded by the Scottish Government with public money. And the government will bury its head further into the sand.