Scotland is committed to economic, social and human rights, and as part of the UK is signed up to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) core conventions. The eight fundamental principles of which are:
Scotland, as part of the UK, has also signed up to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The ICESCR requires state parties to protect, respect and fulfil fundamental economic, social and cultural human rights, which include rights to work, health, and an adequate standard of living (including food and housing). The right to work encompasses fair work and decent working conditions.
Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP) has a vision for Scotland where everyone lives with human dignity. It was developed to give effect to the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
The UNGPs are a set of guidelines for states and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations. Launched in December 2013, responsibility for developing the plan was shared by public bodies, voluntary organisations and individuals from all over Scotland.
Scotland was one of the first counties in the world to sign up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many of these goals align with Scotland’s National Performance Framework and SNAP.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, involves the eradication of forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour.
In 2015 the Scottish Parliament passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, which sets out the legislative framework governing human trafficking in Scotland. Human trafficking is the buying and selling of people, adults and children, for the purposes of exploitation.
It is a crime that can take many forms but trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation is the single biggest type.
Labour exploitation relates to behaviour that goes beyond bad employment practices such as a failure to pay the minimum wage. It encompasses slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.
The equivalent UK legislation is the Modern Slavery Act 2015, parts of which apply in Scotland, including section 54, provides that all commercial organisations with a turnover of £36 million or more must complete and publish a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement.
This is to be done annually and is designed to achieve transparency in supply chains (TISC). The Scottish Government published a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy in May 2017, which sets out the steps that the Scottish Government and partners will take to eliminate human trafficking and exploitation.
Part of that will be to ensure that people and businesses are aware that what they do and what they buy can contribute to this crime.
Slavery and Human Trafficking Guidance for Businesses has been produced to help businesses identify and prevent human trafficking and exploitation across their operations.
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) have a number of useful video resources created by the GLAA and other external agencies on their website.