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Reconsideration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Bill

Gary Seath 8 months ago

Influencing Policy Media

Forces Children Scotland gets behind the call to Incorporate the United Nations Convention of Children’s Rights (UNCRC) into Scots law.

The charity joins 50+ members from the Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) network in issuing a call to MSPs who will debate the motion to reconsider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Bill on 14th September 2023.

MSPs are urged to come together in the same sense of unity that saw the Bill pass unanimously over two years ago.

What does Incorporation mean?

Incorporation means making children’s human rights part of the law. Children’s rights are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UK ratified the UNCRC in 1991 but it has not yet been made part of domestic law. The result is that many of the protections contained within it are not accessible to children.

The Bill will incorporate children’s human rights into Scots law. This includes things like the right to education, the right to health and children’s right to have a say in decisions that affect their lives.

The Bill is a milestone on Scotland’s journey towards making rights real for every child. It marks the culmination of over 12 years of campaigning by children, young people and wider civil society, and represents the increasing support for children’s rights across the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government and public services.

Support for the Bill continues to be widespread, reaching across all political parties and sectors.


The Bill will introduce a range of duties and powers to protect and progress children’s rights.

The Bill says that:
• Public authorities must not act in a way that is incompatible with children’s rights;
• Children will be able to challenge breaches of their rights – including before a court in the most serious cases;
• Courts will have powers to decide if laws are incompatible with children’s rights;
• The Scottish Government must present a Children’s Rights Scheme to the Scottish Parliament and review this
annually. This will set out Scottish Government’s past actions and future plans to progress children’s rights;
• The Scottish Parliament must report every year on what it is doing to progress children’s rights;
• Listed organisations will need to report every three years on what they are doing to progress children’s rights.

The Bill was referred to the UK Supreme Court shortly after it was passed.

The judges found that four sections of the Bill went beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The Supreme Court’s decision focused solely on technical matters. It did not object to the intention behind the Bill or the Scottish Parliament’s ability to incorporate the UNCRC – as long as it stayed within the limits of its powers.

It has never been more pressing to ensure children’s rights are granted stronger protection.

Children cannot wait any longer for their rights to be made law, nor for the culture change needed to make their rights real.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the UK Supreme Court judgment, we urge MSPs of all parties to work together constructively and collaboratively to ensure the amendments to bring the Bill into scope are passed as a matter of urgency.

When MSPs originally passed the Bill, they made a promise to children that their rights would become law.

MSPs must ensure this promise is kept. Addressing the Supreme Court’s concerns is the most important thing the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament can do to take forward our vision of all children in Scotland having their rights realised all of the time.

Many children and young people from armed forces and veteran families have told Forces Children Scotland that they feel that they are a seldom-heard group.

They have also said that many civilian educators, professionals, and decision-makers simply do not understand how many of their unique experiences living in forces families can affect their ability to realise their potential and thrive.

Children and young people from the armed forces community have called upon those supporting them, or making important decisions about their future, to adopt an enhanced children’s rights approach to meeting their unique support needs.

That’s why it’s so important the UNCRC Incorporation Bill is passed into law for this specific group of children and young people in Scotland, in order to meet their unique support needs concerning mental health, education, making important transitions, and much more.


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