Scotland’s National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights

Amidst Brexit discussions and the prospect of a second Scottish Independence Referendum, Prof. John Ferguson provides us with a summary of results from his team’s research on Business and Human Rights in Scotland. Read on to find more.

In 2011 the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs). The GPs have received widespread support and the field of business and human rights has continued to move at a rapid pace, with a number of key developments relating to their implementation. Most notably, the EU and UN have called for the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) to support the implementation of the UNGPs. Since 2011 a number of governments have developed NAPs – with the UK being the first and Scotland currently in the process of developing their own NAP.

In order to establish a robust evidence base to underpin an NAP for Scotland, the Scottish Government commissioned a team based at the School of Management to undertake a National Baseline Assessment (NBA). The team, led by Prof. John Ferguson and Dr. Lucy Wishart (University of St. Andrews) and Dr. Edzia Carvalho (University of Dundee) undertook eight months of research, informed by desk-based analysis, consultation with businesses and civil society organisations, and engagement with experts in the field of business and human rights.

The resulting baseline study (see: highlights that, on the whole, policies, legislation and regulation that have a connection to business and human rights are relatively well developed in both the Scottish and wider UK context. Nevertheless, while the study provides grounds for optimism, a number of significant gaps and challenges are also highlighted – for example:

  • Significant barriers to women, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities in accessing employment
  • Concerns from stakeholders about the widespread impact of business and corporations on the rights of children, from marketing and advertising, through to ensuring that parents and caregivers have access to family-friendly working conditions.
  • Concerns from stakeholders that the Scottish Government continues to award contracts to companies that have been implicated in blacklisting employees.
  • Corporate reporting practice in the UK relates mostly to issues of health and safety and diversity, while reporting on issues such as child and forced labour, collective bargaining, and the living wage is considerably less prevalent.
  • Corporate reporting also tends to exclude long-term plans on improving human rights performance by businesses.

Scotland’s National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights (Scotland’s NBA) is the first stage of a wider consultative process and serves as the basis for opening up dialogue with a range of stakeholders about Scotland’s priorities in relation to business and human rights.

Scotland’s NBA has now been published on the SNAP (Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights) website:

The website also includes a survey to capture responses and feedback on the baseline – see:

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