SCVO is delighted to support this motion and the work of Amnesty International in its campaign.

As we watch the plight of many thousands of refugees across Europe, never has the debate about maintaining the Human Rights Act been so current or so important. Scotland has once again shown that at its core, it is a compassionate, welcoming country. This is why there is strong support for maintenance of the Human Rights Act.

Closer to home, the Act and underpinning human rights conventions are increasingly featured at the heart of Scottish legislation e.g. The Public Bodies Act, the Welfare Funds (Scotland) act and so on. Whilst implementation of these principles may be patchy at times – e.g. consider some of the concerns expressed by families and third sector organisations about the implementation of self-directed support – leadership and a desire to do the right thing have been at the heart of Scotland’s devolved government. We cannot risk losing this good work.

SCVO has recently called for key human rights principles to underpin all legislation and work driving the devolution of further powers under the Scotland Act. Let’s be proactive and ensure key rights to social security and an adequate income drive how future welfare powers are devolved. The UN conventions must also sit at the heart of the Programme for Government and drive how the Budget is shaped.

The third sector’s vision is for a fair and just society, and we work in partnership with third sector organisations and community groups to advance our shared values and interests. Human rights and equality are central to these values.

Now more than ever, we must act to ensure a more positive and empowering debate about human rights. We remain deeply concerned about the language and rhetoric being pushed at a UK level. Rather than seeing the positive impact of driving a rights based approach to public services and policy, this debate pits people against each other. The language used to stigmatise individuals and families who are claiming benefits provides a prime example of this. This must continue to be challenged by the Scottish Government, political parties and wider civic society.

Lastly, the planned cuts to social security announced in the UK budget must lead to action from all key parties to mitigate the damage likely to fall from these. Protecting basic human rights will be a critical. We urge the Scottish Government to arrange an urgent convention to consider how civic society, public services, communities and all levels of government can collectively prepare for these cuts.

In this context, it is important to point out that the impact of austerity and welfare cuts on women demands a specific response, with access to basic rights such as housing, income and wellbeing now at risk particularly for key groups such as lone parents, disabled women, refugee women and unpaid carers. Many in the third sector would wish to see a commitment to tackling deepening gender inequality in the context of planning for and implementation of the new powers emanating from the Scotland Bill, and in all aspects of the Scottish Budget and in the detailed actions to follow the Programme for Government.


Lynn Williams
Policy Officer

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre,
15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB

About us

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector. There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 137,000 paid staff and approximately 1.2 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.4 billion.

SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1300 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.

As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:

  • has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1300 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
  • our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
  • brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland

SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change. Our policy is determined by a policy committee elected by our members.[1]

Further details about SCVO can be found at


Scottish Voluntary Sector Statistics 2010, SCVO

[1] SCVO’s Policy Committee has 24 members elected by SCVO’s member organisations who then co-opt up to eight more members primarily to reflect fields of interest which are not otherwise represented. It also includes two ex officio members, the SCVO Convener and Vice Convener.