16 March 2021

Children's rights given new protection in Scots Law

The Scottish Parliament has today (16 March) passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

The incorporation of the Bill ensures that children’s rights are respected and protected in the law in Scotland and that public authorities are legally required to respect and protect children’s rights in the work that they do.

Since the Convention was adopted by the United Nations in 1989, 196 countries have signed up to the UNCRC, with only one country still to ratify. The UK ratified the UNCRC in December 1991. By passing the Bill, Scotland becomes the first country in the UK to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law.

The Bill comprises a range of measures to ensure that incorporation works in practice, including the publication of a Children’s Rights Scheme by Ministers to demonstrate how the Scottish Government is meeting UNCRC requirements and future plans, regular reports from public authorities, and new powers for the Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland to take legal action in relation to children’s rights. Children, young people and their representatives could also use the courts in Scotland to enforce their rights should they be challenged.

The UNCRC is an international human rights treaty that covers all aspects of children’s lives including civil, political, economic and cultural rights. The Bill also allows for incorporation of the articles of the UNCRC currently beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament, should these powers change in the future.

CELCIS has been one of many organisations working together with children, young people, Scotland's Commissioners for Children and Young People, and so many advocacy and membership organisations, networks and campaigners, to strengthen the rights of children and young people in Scotland through this approach.

Claire Burns, Director of CELCIS (Acting) said:

"Enshrining children’s rights in domestic law to ensure their voices are heard and protected is an historic moment in advancing children’s rights in Scotland. But this is the not the end of the journey. We must build upon this milestone to ensure these rights are fully realised. To create lasting change that will really make a difference to children’s lives it will take a comprehensive approach to implementation and action that embeds children’s rights across all law, policies and public services. That is how Scotland can change how rights are meaningful in everyday life, protected and upheld; that is how we ensure all our children and young people, including those in need of care and protection, can be all they hope to be."