Scottish rights statute set to end thirty year campaign

29 April 2019

Children and Young People's Commissioner Bruce Adamson today welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to pass new legislation to fully protect the rights of children in Scotland within the next two years.

The First Minister made the announcement in her keynote speech to yesterday’s SNP conference, stating:

“This year is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN is campaigning for all nations to commit to it… Our plan is this: by the end of this Parliament we will have incorporated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.”

The announcement means that children’s rights will be formally enshrined in statute by 2021.

Commissioner Bruce Adamson said that putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) fully into Scots law is the most important thing Scotland can do to protect children’s human rights.

He said:

“Incorporation of the UNCRC will ensure a proactive culture of children’s rights across local and national government, giving children a greater say in decision making and providing them with redress if their rights are breached.
“The new law will mean that those in power can be held to account to keep their promises, ensuring children have the things they need to thrive – health, education, and housing.
“It will also ensure proper action on things like poverty which have such a major impact on children’s human rights.”

In particular, the Commissioner welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s commitment to introducing the new legislation within two years, given the implications of Brexit which will see the legal protections of children’s rights in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights lost when the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Adamson said:

“The uncertainties caused by the loss of the Charter and wider implications of Brexit means there is a need for urgency to ensure that a Bill is passed in this Parliamentary session to secure rights protections for children in Scotland.”
“The First Minister’s commitment to passing a law within the next two years is a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC.”

Background

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty created in 1989 which sets out rights every child is entitled to.
  • The UK ratified the UNCRC in 1991, but it has still not been incorporated into domestic law, meaning that many of the protections contained within it are not accessible to children and young people in the UK.
  • Over the past decade, there have been consistent calls from Children’s Commissioners, civil society, academia and importantly children and young people to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law.
  • Extensive research and consultation has been carried out in this time making clear the benefits of domestic law.
  • The First Minister gave a commitment in September 2018 to create a new law to provide legal protections of these rights in Scots Law by incorporating the UNCRC.
  • The Commissioner, working alongside Together (the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), created an Expert Advisory Group in 2018 which included global experts on children’s human rights law.
  • They submitted a draft bill to the Scottish Government on Universal Children Day 20 November 2018 and have been waiting on the Scottish Government to set out its timeframe for delivery of its commitment. Yesterday, the First Minister announced the timetable for its work to be complete by May 2021.