By Lucy Ashton
In March, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.
Today, after a legal challenge by the UK Government, the Supreme Court has found that while some aspects of the bill are outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, there is no dispute about the Scottish Parliament’s decision to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law.
The bill will need to be amended by the Scottish Parliament before it becomes law.
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is clear that incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law is the most important way Scotland can uphold children’s rights.
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said: “Scotland is committed to protecting the rights of children and young people and we welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to full and direct incorporation of the UNCRC.
“The Scottish Parliament was unanimous in its support for this law which would ensure that decisions are taken in children’s best interest; that children have a say in decision making; and that all available resources are used to the maximum extent possible to fulfill rights like education, health, and an adequate standard of living – and that there is accountability when things go wrong.
“All children will benefit, but particularly those whose rights are most at risk – disabled children, care experienced children, children impacted by poverty. It will ensure more is done on things like supporting mental health. All the more important given the impacts of Covid-19.
“The Supreme Court has today clarified the limits of the powers of the Scottish Parliament, but this must not limit the commitment made by the Scottish Government to take a maximalist approach to the incorporation of children’s rights as far as devolution allows.
“Children and young people and other human rights defenders have been campaigning for decades to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law. It is the most important thing we can do to ensure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
“The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the bill impacts on issues reserved to Westminster and therefore goes beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. So, we will have to amend it before children can benefit from these legal protections.
“The Scottish Parliament was unanimous in its support for ensuring real accountability for the delivery of children’s rights into everyday life across Scotland. While this is a set-back, the protection of children’s human rights must still happen. It’s a matter of how we do this, not if we do this.
“Children’s rights protections must not become the victim of the limitations and complexities of devolution, children have already been waiting far too long to have their rights properly protected. Finding a way to address the issues raised and return the bill to the Scottish Parliament must be a priority for Scottish Government.
“The last 18 months have shown just how urgent it is to strengthen rights protections for children. We will work with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in its role as a Human Rights Guarantor to get this done as soon as possible.”
Artwork by Jane Heaney