Table of contents
Who is the Commissioner?
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is Nicola Killean. She works with her team to protect the human rights of children and young people. She works to make sure the laws that affect your lives are fair. She challenges people in power to keep human rights promises they’ve made to you that make sure you have all you need to grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding.
The Commissioner helps you understand how valuable and important your rights are. That understanding means you can demand change when your rights – or the rights of others – are not being respected.
The Commissioner makes sure adults in Scotland know more about your rights so that they see where they need to make changes.
She puts you at the heart of her work, and will listen and learn from you.
The Commissioner’s role and powers are set out in the law of Scotland.
The Commissioner’s role
The Commissioner’s powers are set out in the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003, as modified by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Before the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act came into force, the Commissioner could only use their power of investigation to investigate cases involving the human rights of groups of children and young people. The Act changed this to allow the Commissioner to investigate cases affecting the human rights of an individual child or young person.
Scots law sets out the Commissioner’s functions— the things that she and her office must do.
Protecting and promoting rights
The Commissioner’s main function is to promote and protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland. That includes:
- everyone in Scotland under 18, and
- everyone in Scotland under 21 who is care experienced.
Promoting awareness and understanding
The Commissioner has to tell people in Scotland about the rights children and young people have and help them understand what they mean in practice.
Reviewing law, policy and practice
The Commissioner has to look at what powerful people in Scotland do and the laws they pass, and challenge them when they don’t respect children and young people’s rights.
Promoting best practice
The Commissioner has to tell people who work with and for children and young people how to get better at respecting human rights.
The Commissioner should research issues around children and young people’s human rights and get others to carry out research around this. She should tell people what the research finds.
The law gives the Commissioner a special power to investigate some issues affecting children’s human rights. There are limits on when this power of investigation can be used.
Reporting to Parliament
The Commissioner has to report to the Scottish Parliament so they know what she’s doing in her job.
What does the law say the Commissioner has to do when carrying out their functions?
The Commissioner must have regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially around:
- considering the best interests of children and encouraging others to do so, and
- considering the views of children and young people and encouraging others to do so.
The Commissioner must encourage equal opportunities and the observance of equal opportunity requirements.
Involving children and young people
The Commissioner must encourage children and young people to be involved in her work. Children and young people should know:
- what the Commissioner does,
- how they can talk to the Commissioner, and
- how the Commissioner will respond to them.
The Commissioner must consult children and young people on the work they plan to do, and must consult organisations who work with children and young people. When they do this, they must pay special attention to groups of children and young people who have no other good way to make their views known.
The Commissioner also has to have a strategy around involving children and young people.
UNCRC – How can Children’s Commissioners best protect children’s human rights?
In their General Comment 2, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child explains how people like Children and Young People’s Commissioners can best protect children’s human rights. The Commissioner is also required to report back to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on how their country’s government is respecting children’s human rights. The Committee also says that like other national human rights institutions, Commissioners should be independent of government.
The Commissioner’s independence
How does the law protect the Commissioner’s independence?
The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act makes it so the Commissioner is independent of government:
- the Commissioner is nominated by the whole Scottish Parliament, and appointed by the King,
- the Commissioner can’t be removed from their post without a two-thirds majority vote in the Scottish Parliament.
The Commissioner also lays reports to the Scottish Parliament, but no MSPs direct or control the work the Commissioner does.
Who runs the Commissioner’s office?
The Commissioner and their senior management team oversee the governance and management requirements of our work.
The Commissioner’s funding
How is the Commissioner funded?
The Commissioner is funded through public money, and ultimately through the people of Scotland.
The Commissioner’s funding doesn’t come through the Scottish Government, but from the Scottish Parliament.
The Commissioner requires Parliamentary approval of their budget each year via the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).
The Commissioner’s financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March. Each summer, the SPCB writes to the Commissioner seeking a budget for the next financial year and an estimated budget for the year or years after that.
The SPCB looks at the Commissioner’s budget submission and may request oral or written evidence of the bid, agreeing changes if necessary before formal SPCB approval. The Commissioner’s budget submission forms part of the SPCB’s overall budget submission that must be approved by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.
Who’s responsible for the funding the Commissioner gets?
The law that sets out the Commissioner’s role says that the Commissioner or a member of their staff has to be responsible for:
- signing their accounts
- making sure their finances are regular and correct
- making sure resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively.
The Commissioner acts in the role of accountable officer, and in this role they are answerable to the Scottish Parliament.
This means that – while the Commissioner is independent – the law does say they should spend the money they get from the public in a reasonable way, and there are systems in place to make sure this happens in practice.
History of the Commissioner
Scotland’s first Children and Young People’s Commissioner began work in 2004 after many organisations and children and young people campaigned for an independent children’s rights champion.
The first Commissioner was Kathleen Marshall who started her office in 2004 and finished in 2009. The second Commissioner, Tam Baillie, started work in 2009 and completed his term in 2017. The third Commissioner Bruce Adamson, began his term in 2017 and ended in 2023. The current Commissioner, Nicola Killean, began her term in 2023.