Meeting the Commissioner

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Callum Stark MSYP writes about meeting Bruce Adamson, the current Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

I am a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) for Edinburgh Southern, and I interviewed Bruce about the role of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner as well as a wide range of other subjects related to children and young people in Scotland.

To be able to effectively safeguard children and young people’s rights, the Commissioner has many responsibilities and powers. These include:

  • making sure children and young people know about their rights,
  • examining laws surrounding children’s and young people’s rights, and
  • challenging the Government on relevant laws and policies.

To be able to effectively challenge the Government, though, the Commissioner must have independence from the government— which he does. I was interested to hear Bruce explain his relationship with the Scottish Parliament, saying that his independence – and receiving funding from the Parliament rather than the Scottish Government – is crucial to be able to fulfil the role of Commissioner effectively. He is able to be brave and fearless, and to criticise where he needs to.

There have been three Commissioners since the office was created in 2004, and all of them have come from different backgrounds before taking on the role. Bruce has an immensely varied career in human rights: he has worked as a lawyer with organisations such as the UN, and also volunteered for 13 years as a Panel member of the Children’s Panel.

In June of this year, the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) voted for our new annual campaign – which launches in October – to be on young people’s rights. So as an MSYP going forward, it is invaluable to be able to discuss issues about our rights with someone so experienced in both the legal and personal sides of the matter.

Of the many issues affecting children and young people in Scotland, Bruce talked about issues such the use of mosquito alarms in Scotland – which has been directly condemned by the UN – and incorporation of the UNCRC in Scots law.

The issue of mosquito alarms was highlighted in the media by SYP chair Amy Lee Fraioli, and Bruce has called for the mosquito to be banned. Since my interview with Bruce, the recent SNP conference saw support for such a ban, and the SYP want the Scottish Government to act on this.

We also discussed equal protection for children against assault by an adult, which is an ongoing issue where many are working tirelessly to try to and change the law, and the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland. Although this will rise to 12, this is only a minimum standard and Bruce wants the age to rise further. This is an issue I, as an MSYP, am particularly passionate about, and I talked with Bruce about the inappropriateness of a criminal response to children so young who perhaps don’t know the difference between the morally wrong and the illegal. I hope to be able to bring light to some of these issues affecting children and young people in my role as an MSYP.

I look forward to working with Bruce and his excellent team during my two-year term, and feel more capable to serve and represent the young people in my constituency having been able to talk with Bruce about some extremely powerful subjects, as well as getting to know him at the start of his time as Commissioner.

Callum signs Bruce's glass wall.

I signed the glass wall in Bruce’s office. He wants to see this filled with messages and signatures from Scotland’s children and young people by the time he finishes his job in six years, so go and visit him!