Monumental decision to protect Scottish children
Scotland will become the first country in the UK to directly incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with UNCRC requirements.
And it will give children, young people and their representatives the power to go to court to enforce their rights.
The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.
It sets out 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.
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, 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, to the maximum extent possible under Parliament’s current powers, we will build children’s rights into the fabric of decision making in Scotland.
“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 court to enforce their rights.
“This Bill is a significant step towards a future based on tolerance, equality, shared values and respect for the human dignity of all people.”
The Bill requires Ministers to produce a Children’s Rights Scheme setting out how they comply with children’s rights and to report annually.
It also gives power to the Children’s Commissioner to take legal action in relation to children’s rights.
Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland policy and public affairs manager, said: “This is a monumental day for Scotland; incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law is a significant step to ensuring that all children, even babies, in this country have their rights recognised, respected and fulfilled.
“Among its provisions, the Convention sets out a child’s right to be safe and their right to access support services to help them recover from abuse or neglect.
“Our research shows that the availability of therapeutic services for children who have suffered abuse is inconsistent across the country.
“But this new Bill puts an obligation on the Scottish Government and others to ensure access to specialist and timely treatment for all children who have suffered from traumatic experiences.”
The Bill also requires public authorities to report every three years on how they comply with children’s rights.