The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty 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.
Scotland is in a unique position to introduce legislation that provides legal protections of these rights in Scots Law. This process is called incorporation.
Read our joint briefing on incorporation.
Incorporation Advisory Group
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is working with Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) to convene a short-term Advisory Group to explore what a Bill to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law would look like.
The Advisory Group is independent from the Scottish Government and comprises of a range of world-leading legal experts on children’s rights and incorporation.
These experts have been drawing from their wide experience of incorporation across the world to set out a model of incorporation for Scotland that would meet the standards put forward by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Read the Terms of Reference of the group.
Read the minutes of the group's first meeting, on 26 October 2018.
A draft Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill
The Advisory Group has drafted a Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill to show how the UNCRC could be incorporated into Scots law.
On Universal Children’s Day, 20 November 2018, the Advisory Group presented the draft Children's Rights (Scotland) Bill 2019 to the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Children and Young People.
The Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill has been specifically drafted to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law. It has been written in a way that:
- ensures proactive culture of children’s rights across local and national government; and
- provides redress to children if their rights are breached.
We are committed to working collaboratively with children and young people, the legal community and wider civil society to secure rights protections for children in Scotland as set out in international law. As such, the Advisory Group has urged the Scottish Government to draw from this draft Bill to inform a wider public consultation in early 2019.
This would ensure that a Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill – informed through wider consultations – could be introduced into the Scottish Parliament in autumn 2019. This would mark the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC and allow for it to be passed before the end of the parliament in 2021.
Read the Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill.
Read Explanatory Notes for the Bill.
It’s time to put words into action
Over the past decade, there have been consistent calls from civil society, academia and importantly children and young people to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law. The debate in Scotland is mature, and there has been extensive research and consultation carried out in this time.
Children and young people demand it
Momentum has continued and has recently been put into a sharper focus through the Scottish Youth Parliament’s campaign ‘Right Here, Right Now’, initiated after more than 76% of the 700,000 young people who responded to the 2016-21 manifesto agreed that the UNCRC ‘should be fully incorporated into Scots law’. Children and young people have continued to advocate at the highest levels of government for their rights to be recognised through incorporation including at both the first and second annual Cabinet Meeting with Children and Young People.
The Scottish Government has said they’ll do it
In September 2018, the First Minister for Scotland made a commitment to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. Scottish Government officials have stressed that ‘principles’ means the ‘intent of every article’ of the UNCRC. This has been welcomed by children, young people and wider civil society.
Legal protections for children’s rights are more important than ever
Specific legal protections of children’s rights included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will be lost when the UK leaves the European Union. The uncertainties caused 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 Scottish Parliament supports it
There is also currently majority political party support for UNCRC incorporation in the Scottish Parliament. This provides a possibly unique opportunity to progress incorporation in the next three years.