Children's human rights to be incorporated into Scots law

Children’s human rights are to be incorporated into Scots law, after MSPs in the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (UNCRC).

It comes after more than a decade of campaigning by young human rights defenders and human rights organisations across Scotland. 

The UNCRC is an international treaty setting out the rights that children and young people are entitled to and was ratified by the UK in 1991.

Its incorporation into law will mean that public authorities and decision makers in Scotland will be legally obliged to respect children’s rights by designing policies, budgets and services that fulfil the obligations of the UNCRC. Young people and those that represent them will be able to challenge public authorities in Scotland’s courts when their rights are breached. It also includes new powers for the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission to take legal action in relation to children’s rights, a duty on Scottish Ministers to set out a Children’s Rights Scheme and a requirement on public bodies to report on their compliance with the UNCRC. 

The progress of the Bill was delayed in 2021 after a challenge by the UK Government in the Supreme Court. The vote by MSPs to pass it at Reconsideration Stage on 7th December, and the lessons learned in the process, present a framework for the incorporation of further international human rights treaties into Scots law via the Scottish Government’s proposed Human Rights Bill for Scotland.

Jan Savage is Executive Director of the Scottish Human Rights Commission. She says:

“The devolved legislative context for human rights incorporation in the UK is complex.  Following the Supreme Court judgement, the successful reconsideration of the UNCRC into Scots law shows that it is possible to achieve landmark progress in achieving greater accountability in law for human rights in Scotland.

 “Children, young people and their families have waited a long time for this. The lessons learned from incorporation of the UNCRC must now influence the legislative approach to the Scottish Government’s new Human Rights Bill, to achieve the greatest possible protection and promotion of human rights in Scotland within the scope of devolved competence.”

Read more about the proposed Human Rights Bill for Scotland on our website