Plans to progress Scotland’s children’s rights legislation have been announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was backed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021, but could not be implemented because of a legal challenge brought by the UK Government. In October, the Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the Bill were outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government has now set out how it will address this. Over the next few weeks, they will engage with relevant organisations and children and young people on proposed changes to the Bill. These will then be brought before Parliament via the Reconsideration Stage.
The Deputy First Minister said:
“The UNCRC Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament to deliver the highest protection possible for children’s rights. The Supreme Court ruling was bitterly disappointing, but we have fully respected and carefully considered its implications.
“We sought support from the UK Government to make modest adjustments to the Scotland Act to address the issues with the devolution settlement that the Supreme Court ruling highlighted. Despite their public commitment to engage constructively, this was rejected by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
“As a result, we will remove UK Acts from the remedial provisions within the Bill, which is a dilution of the effect of the legislation, and we will consult with children and young people on the proposed changes.
“It is disappointing that this will not become law in the form which our Parliament agreed. However, we can now move forward with legislation to build a Scotland where respect for human rights anchors our society and the institutions which govern and deliver public services.”
The UNCRC Bill seeks to incorporate as much of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as possible into Scots law. The intent behind the Bill is to deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland.
As passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Bill would require Scotland’s public authorities to take steps to ensure the protection of children’s rights in their decision-making and service delivery and make it unlawful for public authorities, including the Scottish Government, to act against the UNCRC requirements as set out in the Bill. Children, young people and their representatives would have a new ability to use the courts to enforce their rights.
Information about the Reconsideration Stage can be found on the Scottish Parliament website