Two papers setting out the contribution a human rights based approach can make to post-COVID-19 economic recovery have been published by the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

A joint report to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance & Constitution Committee inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on public finances and the fiscal framework, produced by the Commission and the Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland, highlights the need to take a human rights-based approach to budgeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The impact of decisions being made now will be felt for many years to come. Taking a human rights-based approach to these decisions can support openness, honesty, transparency and public engagement, helping to maintain the public’s trust in current and future budgetary decisions", it states.

In its conclusion the report comments: "Transparency within and ongoing monitoring of the Scottish Budget is critical as the situation evolves, especially as traditional methods of oversight and forecasting have been postponed... The Scottish Government must be held to account to provide regular and comprehensive updates about changes to its funding position, its spending decisions, and evolving budgetary risks. These updates should include an equality and human rights impact assessment of policy decisions, including budgetary ones, in order to fully understand the impact on individuals, especially the most marginalised."

The Commission has also submitted a response to the call for views from the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery. It considers the opportunity that exists to redefine what the foundations of the economy we want to build might look like. 

"In the context of COVID-19, human rights standards and principles provide a means of taking transparent, accountable and participative decisions that require the balancing of competing interests and priorities, at a time when trust and public confidence is both fragile and critical", the Commission states.

"Taking a rights based approach to Scotland’s economic recovery would involve setting out Scotland’s core human rights obligations across all rights: civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental. Then, with the wide and meaningful participation of rights-holders, the Government would explore the necessary law, policy and budgetary resources required to improve rights realisation gradually, and in accordance with Scotland’s fiscal envelope."

Both of these submissions relate to work that the Commission has recently published on fiscal transparency and the results of its Scotland's Open Budget Survey, the recommendations of which aim to support further positive changes to Scotland’s budgetary processes.

Writing in the National newspaper, the Commission’s research officer, Dr Alison Hosie said: "The Scottish Government is currently taking very difficult decisions in particularly challenging circumstances. Doing so with openness, transparency, accountability and public participation will foster and build trust with people.

"It will also help to ensure that budgetary choices being made support Scotland’s recovery in a way that respects, protects and fulfils everyone’s rights as much as possible."