Incorporation of the UNCRC puts children’s rights into the heart of everything we do. It takes the international promises we’ve signed up to and gives them real force in Scotland.
It’s the most important thing Scotland can do to protect the rights of children and young people. On 16 March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, meaning UNCRC incorporation will soon be a reality in Scotland.
What is UNCRC incorporation?
Incorporation of the UNCRC means it gets written into a country’s law at a national level— a level known as domestic law.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill has now passed the Scottish Parliament, and will soon become Scots law. Once it does, it’ll come into force within six months.
When a Convention is incorporated into Scots law, it has more power to bring about change. Often, this happens through cultural change. But this is underpinned by the fact the law can be used in Scottish courts.
So that means that the Scottish Government can soon be taken to court in Scotland if it doesn’t keep its UNCRC promises.
UK Government challenge to the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill
The UK Government has challenged specific areas of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill in the UK Supreme Court.
The Scottish Parliament has limited powers, so there are some things it can’t make laws about.
The UK Government believes some parts of the Bill go beyond these powers, and these are the parts it is challenging.
But it is only challenging these parts, and not the Bill as a whole. On 24th May 2022, the Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is looking at the changes that need to be made to the Bill to address the Supreme Court judgment.
Together Scotland’s website has more detail about the specifics of the UK Government’s challenge.
Together Scotland’s Website also has more detail about the latest statement made by the Scottish Government, explaining what amendments to the bill are needed which may mean incorporation can happen sooner.
It doesn’t have to.
The UK Government’s challenge will delay the Bill getting Royal Assent― where the Queen approves a Bill and so makes it become a law.
The UNCRC Incorporation Bill says it must come into force within six months of receiving Royal Assent. But that doesn’t mean children and young people in Scotland have to wait the full six months: they’ve already waited long enough.
After Royal Assent, the Scottish Government has the power to make the law commence before six months have passed.
Adult duty bearers across Scotland should work to make sure incorporation happens as soon as possible. Nothing about the UK Government’s challenge changes that.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
On 6 October 2021 the Supreme Court published their judgment. The judges unanimously decided that four sections of the Bill went beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Until changes are made to those sections, the Bill cannot become law – which means children’s rights will not be fully protected.
Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) have published a blog explaining what the Supreme Court judgment means.
On 24th May 2022, the Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is looking at the changes that need to be made to the Bill to address the Supreme Court judgment.
We’re continuing to call for the Scottish Government to take action to address the Supreme Court’s concerns urgently.
Our work on UNCRC Incorporation
Recent work our office has done around the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.
How you can help make rights real
Information to help children, young people and adults learn more about the UNCRC and about putting it into action.