New law on rights makes government accountable to children

Smiling children inside a semicircle with the Scottish flag on it and sun rays behind, with the Scottish Parliament in the background.

Incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law finally gives children real power to hold the government to account, says the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland. 

The country became the first part of the UK to vote to enshrine the UNCRC into domestic law after the Scottish Parliament passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.  

Bruce Adamson, the Commissioner, warned the government and decision-makers that there is now no hiding place when it comes to upholding children’s rights.  

He said:

“Incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law is the most important thing we can do to protect and promote the rights of children and young people. People in power can no longer ignore or conveniently forget about children’s rights. If they do, children and young people can challenge and will have a meaningful system of redress when things go wrong. 

“There’s no question this will improve life for all children, but those who will feel the biggest impact are children whose rights are most at risk – children living in poverty, disabled children, young carers, those who have experience of the care system, children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Their rights will be at the centre of every policy, law, or budgetary decision from now on. This will lead to significant change in things like addressing poverty and supporting mental health which children themselves have identified as priorities. It will also mean better support for families. 

“This law gives children power – they will be consulted and listened to. Children and young people, as well as other campaigners, have fought tirelessly for incorporation for many decades, and today is testament to their determination. The government and decision-makers should know that all eyes are on them and children won’t hesitate to hold them to account.”  

A way of children having their voices heard

Young human rights defenders have also praised the passing of incorporation of the UNCRC.  

Jonathan, a young adviser to the Commissioner, said:

“Until now, if a young person had felt their rights were not being respected, it was quite difficult for them to complain and there was no legal obligation to respect their rights. But by putting it into law, it shows children that the government and local authorities and other public bodies will take them seriously and do care about their rights.” 

Fellow young adviser Abigail said:

“Incorporation of the UNCRC will give young people a sense of security. They’ll now feel safe in the knowledge that their rights are in law. Incorporation is a way of children having their voices heard, they know that they will be listened to, and they know that they matter.”  

Since it was created by the Scottish Parliament 18 years ago, the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has campaigned for incorporation of children’s rights. Scotland’s first Commissioner, Professor Kathleen Marshall, said: 

“There is still a job to be done in keeping governments to their promises. With the incorporation, we have been given a fantastic new tool – bright, shining, and wanting to be used. Everyone has a part to play.” 

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