Photo of Mhairi Snowden. Animated roadmap.

The State of Our Rights: A call to action for everyone

Web AdminBlog, SCLD Publication

SCLD has invited a range of stakeholders and partners to share their thoughts on our recent state-of-the-nation report on the human rights of people with learning disabilities, The State of Our Rights. We will be sharing these meditations in a blog series over the coming weeks. First up is Mhairi Snowden, Director at the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, who sees our report as a call to action for everyone in Scotland.  

“Sometimes, there is a lack of action on social justice issues for good reason. Maybe we don’t know there is an issue. Or we don’t know how serious it is, or who is affected. Or we don’t know what to do about it. 

But here is a report that leaves no possible justification for lack of action.  

The State of Our Rights report from SCLD, sets out, in very stark terms, the serious rights infringements that are experienced by people with learning disabilities in Scotland. It provides evidence around institutionalisation and people being stuck in hospital in breach of their right to liberty. It includes evidence around the high levels of abuse and exploitation experienced by women with learning disabilities. There is shocking evidence around the disproportionately high numbers of people with learning disabilities who died of COVID-19. The report provides insight into breaches of economic and social rights such as the right to education and to work. 

No one who reads this report can be left with any doubt that people with learning disabilities are facing daily and serious denials of their human rights.

No one who reads this report can be left with any doubt that people with learning disabilities are facing daily and serious denials of their human rights. And the report is clear about why that is. It says: 

‘…despite our awareness of these issues, we are yet to see actual transformative change in Scotland. The unacceptable dehumanisation and pathologising of people with learning disabilities is central to our collective failure to deliver change.’ 

That is truly unacceptable. 

At the Consortium, we have been advocating for enhanced human rights law in Scotland to help drive change so that rights are better realised for all. The consultation on this new Scottish Human Rights Bill is out now and closes on 5th October. In it, the Scottish Government is proposing a strong compliance duty on our economic, social, cultural and environmental rights – this is really positive, and will help to provide the framework to make sure that people no longer miss out on these basic rights. 

However, the consultation also regrettably suggests that this strong compliance duty will not apply to the rights within the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (CRPD). We strongly agree with SCLD’s recommendation that key standalone rights in CRPD such as the right to independent living, the right to access justice, and the right to equal recognition before the law, need to be fully incorporated with a strong duty to comply. 

The consultation itself acknowledges that it is this duty to comply with the rights that can be ‘transformative.’ This duty is the ‘name it and claim it’ of our human rights in law, that will empower people with learning disabilities to be seen and heard, and for action to be taken to respect their dignity.  

Thanks to the authors of this report, we know the changes that are needed to make sure that people with learning disabilities are treated with respect and valued. The question is, will policy and law makers now make those changes? If they are serious about making Scotland a human rights-respecting country – then they must.” 

Mhairi Snowden
Director, Human Rights Consortium Scotland