Parliamentary Briefing: Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill

The Covid-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for public services and for society as a whole.  We commend the Scottish Government and Scottish public services, particularly the NHS, for their responses to the crisis thus far and the clarity with which messages about the importance of rights to life and to health are being communicated to all parts of Scottish society, including children and young people. 

International human rights frameworks acknowledge the need for flexibility in times of national emergency and we recognise that the Scottish Government must take on some emergency powers in order to protect public health and to address the challenges the pandemic presents. We welcome the steps taken to date by the Scottish Government to protect the rights of children and young people, for example in ensuring continued access to social security (including free school meals) and education.

Our key messages 

  • Children and young people’s human rights must underpin all decisions taken to introduce new law, policy and practice guidance in Scotland in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
  • It is legitimate for the Scottish Government to seek emergency powers provided that they are lawful, necessary, proportionate and time limited to safeguard children and young people’s rights in accordance with international human rights law and principles.  
  • The exercise of some of these emergency powers will necessarily negatively impact on children’s human rights, particularly for those children who are deprived of their liberty.  
  • Scottish Government must ensure ongoing assessment of impact through robust Children’s Rights Impact Assessments.
  • Scottish Government must put in place adequate monitoring and scrutiny of implementation of the emergency provisions and the use of these powers.  
  • The Scottish Parliament must ensure it continues to act as a human rights guarantor. 
  • Scottish Government should issue specific human rights-based guidance and, if necessary, direction to ensure that children’s human rights continue to be protected when these are powers are used
  • Scottish Government should amend the draft bill and associated provisions and guidance to ensure that every person under the age of 18 is defined as a ‘child’, in accordance with the UNCRC

We briefed MSPs on the Coronavirus Bill Legislative Consent Memorandum

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