Time for action to bring the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law

The Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, made a statement today on the progress of the delayed United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) Scotland Bill (UNCRC).

This is a welcome update after the Bill was delayed in October 2021 following a challenge by the UK Government.

The Commission has called on the Scottish Government to amend the legislation so that it can bring the Bill into law urgently.  We believe the legislation should be as clear as possible and offer children and young people the strongest possible protections within the limits of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative power.

The Bill contains many measures which will contribute to making children’s rights real, ensuring Scottish Ministers and Scottish public authorities act in a way that protects and fulfils children’s rights. Once the UNCRC is fully incorporated, it means this law can be used in Scottish courts, strengthening accountability for human rights obligations relating to children and young people.

We support calls from the Scottish Children and Young People’s Commissioner asking the Scottish Government to undertake a legislative audit to identify areas of law which are currently incompatible with the UNCRC, acting in parallel with the passage of the Bill.

After a long period of delay, the time for action is now. We urge the Scottish Government to remedy the issues raised by the Supreme Court’s decision as soon as possible to ensure children’s rights are respected and protected with maximum effect within devolved competence.

Notes for editors

  1. A Bill to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into law in Scotland was unanimously passed in the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, which the Scottish Human Rights Commission strongly welcomed. However, the United Kingdom government challenged specific areas of the Bill, raising concerns that parts of the Bill exceeded the powers of the Scottish Parliament, so the Bill was considered by the UK Supreme Court. A hearing was held on 28-29 June 2021, and on 6th Oct 2021 the court gave its judgement. The judges decided unanimously that four sections of the Bill go beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. 
  1. In February 2023, the Minister for Children and Young People provided an update to Parliament on progress in drafting amendments to the Bill.