Scotland votes to incorporate children’s rights in law

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Edinburgh 16 March 2021 – Today in a landmark moment for children’s rights, the Scottish Parliament has voted to incorporate the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scottish Law. 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 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 – the rights contained in the UNCRC are afforded the highest protection possible.

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said: ‘This is a great day for children in Scotland and this legislation demonstrates an unwavering commitment to children’s rights. I welcome the passage of this progressive piece of legislation and look forward to seeing its positive impacts on the lives of all children in Scotland for years to come.’

Niamh, 18 years, from South Ayrshire and member of UNICEF UK’s Youth Advisory Board, said:  ‘As we are nearing the final stages of its inclusion, I am incredibly excited that the UNCRC is being incorporated into Scottish law. This is a remarkable and hugely important step that will ensure the rights of children and young people all over the country are protected. I am delighted the Scottish Parliament have voted for this Bill to ensure that the rights of Scottish young people like me are understood and valued.

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 the incorporated UNCRC requirements. If a breach occurs, children, young people and their representatives will be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.
  • The Bill also requires that legislation be interpreted in a UNCRC compatible way. It includes powers to allow the courts to make strike down or incompatibility declarators in respect of incompatible legislation.
  • The Bill contains specific measures to remove barriers which children and young people may face in realising their rights and accessing justice. These include provisions ensuring that claims are not time-barred during childhood.
  • The Bill will require the Scottish Government to lay an annual 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 respected 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. 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 and to thrive.

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Notes to Editors:

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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