Landmark moment as Scotland incorporates children's rights in law

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Landmark moment as Scotland incorporates children's rights in law

Edinburgh – 17 January 2024 – Today is a landmark moment for children’s rights as the  United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Scotland) Bill receives Royal Assent. This historic move marks a significant step towards ensuring children’s rights are respected, realised and protected for every child across Scotland.   

The UNCRC is the most widely ratified treaty in the world and forms the basis of all UNICEF’s work, both here in the UK and around the world. The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) has supported the Scottish Bill team and Parliament with the legislation which would incorporate the UNCRC into Scottish law. By fully and directly incorporating the UNCRC into Scottish law – to the maximum extent within the Scottish Parliament’s powers – children in Scotland are afforded the highest protection possible.  

Jon Sparkes, CEO of UNICEF UK, said: ‘This is a great day for children in Scotland. This legislation shows an unwavering commitment to children’s rights and we congratulate the Scottish Government and everybody who was involved in making this a reality. UNICEF UK welcomes this progressive piece of legislation and we look forward to seeing its positive impact on the lives of all children in Scotland.’  

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill is unique as in addition to incorporating the Convention, it contains several proactive measures of implementation to ensure the full realisation of children’s rights. For example:  

  • The Bill contains a ‘compatibility duty’ which makes it unlawful for public authorities, including Scottish Government Ministers, to act incompatibly with Acts of the Scottish Parliament. If a breach occurs, children, young people and their representatives will be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.
  • The Bill contains specific measures to remove barriers which children and young people may face in realising their rights and accessing justice.
  • The Bill will require the Scottish Government to present a Children’s Rights Scheme before the Scottish Parliament setting out arrangements for fulfilling the compatibility duty under the Bill and to report on the actions taken and future plans for children’s rights.
  • There is an obligation on the Scottish Government to conduct a Child Rights Impact Assessment on every new policy and legislation that affects children to ensure that children’s rights are upheld when considering new policy and fiscal decisions. 

The Convention has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children, everywhere are entitled to receive. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights. At its heart the Convention is a simple promise to every child. A promise that says that every child is entitled to the best possible start in life, to an education, to a safe place to live, to quality health care and to protection from harm. What every child needs to survive, to thrive and reach their full potential. 

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Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact:

UNICEF UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, [email protected]


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), Registered Charity No. 1072612 (England & Wales), SC043677 (Scotland).

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