Incorporation of the UNCRC

Following decades of campaigning by civil society and children’s commissioners, the First Minister has committed to incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law before the end of the current Parliamentary session in 2021.

The UNCRC is an international human rights treaty which sets out rights every child is entitled to. It was adopted 30 years ago in 1989 and has been ratified by every country in the world except the USA.

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 next few months Scotland is in a unique position to develop legislation that makes these rights more real for children by making them part of our domestic law. It is important that the law is written by the end of this year – the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC – to give it time to be properly considered by Parliament before the next election in May 2021.

Read our joint briefing on incorporation.

Scottish Government consultation on incorporation

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law.

Access the consultation here.

Our consultation response highlights four key points:

  • that the UNCRC must be incorporated as written,
  • that it doesn’t need to be rewritten to be incorporated into Scots law,
  • that things need to move quickly for incorporation to happen in this Parliamentary session,
  • that incorporation supports and complements wider work on human rights legislation in Scotland as recommended by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership, whose final report supported incorporation of the UNCRC unequivocally.

Download our consultation response on incorporation.

Read a mobile-friendly version of the response.

Read our position paper on incorporation.

Why Incorporation is urgent

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.

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.

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 Children’s Rights (Scotland) Bill

The Advisory Group has creatd 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 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 Bill to inform their wider public consultation.

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.

National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership

We welcome the news that the Scottish Government will create a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

The Taskforce exists to develop new legislation to enhance the protection of human rights for everyone in Scottish society, which will complement the important step of incorporation of UNCRC by early 2021. Its longer-term aim is of incorporation and effective implementation of the wider human rights framework.

The Taskforce’s work will affect all members of society, regardless of their age. Because of this, it is important that children and young people are full partners in its longer-term work.