Scotland is set to become the first UK country to directly incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law, the Scottish government has announced.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will ‘revolutionise the way we listen to children’ and enshrine the rights of children into domestic law. It will make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements, giving children, young people and their representatives the power to go to court to enforce their rights.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “This Bill will revolutionise the way we listen to children and take their rights into account.
“By directly incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law, and to the maximum extent possible under the current powers of the Parliament, we will build children’s rights into the fabric of decision making in Scotland,” he added.
The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world and sets out the specific rights that all children have to help fulfil their potential, including rights relating to health and education, leisure and play, fair and equal treatment, protection from exploitation and the right to be heard.
The Bill, which directly incorporates the UNCRC as far as possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament, includes:
- making it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements
- giving power to the Children’s Commissioner to take legal action in relation to children’s rights
- requiring Ministers to produce a Children’s Rights Scheme setting out how they comply with children’s rights and to report annually
- requiring listed public authorities to report every three years on how they comply with children’s rights.
The Bill allows for incorporation of the articles of the UNCRC currently beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament, should these powers change in the future.
John Swinney added: “It will mean children and young people are involved in the decisions that affect their lives and that children’s rights are always respected, protected and fulfilled by public authorities. Where necessary, children will be able to go to courts to enforce their rights.
“This Bill is a significant step towards a future based on tolerance, equality, shared values and respect for the worth and human dignity of all people,” he concluded.
SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of children’s charity Aberlour, said: “Today is undoubtedly a day to celebrate and recognise the importance of what has been achieved by the introduction of this Bill, and the efforts of those who got us here. I hope that when we see this Bill become law it will mean the rights of all of Scotland’s children and young people are recognised and respected in all circumstances, including those who experience greater adversity as a result of living in poverty.
“Securing, protecting and fulfilling children and young people’s rights will make Scotland a better country and all of us better citizens,” she added.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill