The Scottish Government has introduced a new Bill to the Scottish Parliament to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law (1 September).
The Bill, one of a number confirmed for the parliament to scrutinise from the government’s new Programme for Government announced on 1 September, intends to give new powers to Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner to take legal action in relation to children’s rights, and requires Ministers to produce a Children’s Rights Scheme to set out how they comply with children’s rights and report annually. It also means listed public authorities must report on how they comply with children’s rights every three years and makes it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements.
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.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“This Bill will revolutionise the way we listen to children and take their rights into account.
“By directly incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law, and to the maximum extent possible under the current powers of the Parliament, we will build children’s rights into the fabric of decision making in Scotland.
“It will mean children and young people are involved in the decisions that affect their lives and that children’s rights are always respected, protected and fulfilled by public authorities. Where necessary, children will be able to go to courts to enforce their rights.
“This Bill is a significant step towards a future based on tolerance, equality, shared values and respect for the worth and human dignity of all people.”
CELCIS has been one of many organisations working together to strengthen the rights of children and young people in Scotland through this approach. Director of CELCIS (Acting) Claire Burns co-signed a letter led by Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, welcoming the Bill.
Claire Burns, said:
"It should never be underestimated what reaching this milestone means. It is not enough for nations to ratify the UNCRC - incorporating and embedding the rights of each and every child is now fundamental to how they grow, live and thrive. 30 years after the convention was agreed all too often the rights of children are less likely to be fully realised - there will now be a way here in Scotland to remedy this. It is the power of the voices of children, young people and so many individuals and organisations across Scotland over a decade of campaigning that has achieved this landmark moment.
"Children who are in need of care and protection, those are unable to live with their families, and care leavers, have a right under the UNCRC to special protection and assistance from the state, and incorporation is a crucial step in further securing their rights. However, this new law will not make a difference on its own and the necessary mechanisms and support will need to be in place to ensure that these rights are fully realised. We will work alongside all those ready to support the development and implementation of the rights-based approaches that will be required to deliver the change hoped for."