The time for Human Rights in Scottish sport is now

10th December 2023

The time for Human Rights in Scottish sport is now

Human Rights day is observed every year on the 10th of December

This year, on the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, LEAP Sports calls upon our partners across Scottish sport to have a focused discussion on embracing human rights, and embedding human rights approaches into Scottish sport.

In a blog post from 2022 reflecting on human rights policy at Glasgow 2014, Professor Grant Jarvie remarked that “When review of the Scottish Sporting Landscape asked Scottish sport if it aspired to be a world leader on sport and human rights an opportunity was lost”.

Earlier this year The Scottish Government gathered views to help inform how we will take forward a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland. The Bill will incorporate a range of economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law for the first time, and will establish the importance of human rights at law. In our response to the consultation, LEAP Sports proposed that a comprehensive Human Rights Bill for Scotland, should be ambitious in its consideration of the right to access and participate in sport and physical activity. Opportunities to discuss the role of sport during the consultation were however limited, and perhaps represent another opportunity lost.

This past year has also seen a long overdue overhaul of the UK Sports Councils Equality Standard in Sport, rethinking the way in which equality and inclusion is embedded into sport. The new ‘Moving to Inclusion’ framework is a strong shift towards building a Scottish sports system where a culture of equality and inclusion lives and thrives, which is in alignment with the Scottish Government ambition to develop a human rights culture, and about making sure that people’s rights are put at the very centre of policies and practices. Another opportunity? Lost.

Understanding and developing these alignments are a crucial part of establishing long term change, and necessary as Brexit has reduced the layers of human rights protection afforded to the UK, including Scotland. Sport in the UK as a whole lags behind other areas of civic society in its adoption of human rights based approaches in decision making and governance frameworks. In this regard, sport in the UK also lags behind European counterparts. This can be seen in the UK’s decision not to join the Council of Europe’s Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) despite the UK being a member of the Council of Europe. EPAS provides a platform for intergovernmental sports co-operation in relation to human rights and equality in sport and with the aim of making sport more ethical, more inclusive and safer. It is regrettable that as the UK does not take a place at the Council of Europe’s Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport, then not only are the UK interests not represented, but neither are Scotland’s interests represented within this important mechanism for human rights in sport. Furthermore, this isolates Scottish sport from a key opportunity to access international best practice in the area of human rights in sport.

We don't have to look too far from here for an example of a good starting point: the Northern Ireland Sport & Human Rights Forum was established to open this agenda in Northern Ireland 2019.  

We cannot afford to delay this discussion any longer. We cannot continue to lose opportunities to build on this agenda. The time for Human Rights is Now, the time for Human Rights in Scottish sport is now. 

Written on 10th December 2023.