– passage of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill
It has been disappointing to find so little attention given in the news media in Scotland to a major event which occurred in Holyrood on 16 March 2021. It was the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. This Government Bill was approved by 114 MSPs, with no dissenting votes and no abstentions.
This is UNICEF’s view on the achievement:
‘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 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.”
The UNICEF statement adds: ‘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.’
Among a number of such measures here are three specific examples:
‘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 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.’
And ‘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.’
A view from the Scottish Youth Parliament
Also on 16 March, on the same day as the annual meeting between members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Scottish Government’s Cabinet, a member of the former emphasised the importance of the Bill:
“The incorporation of the UNCRC will be a monumental step forward in our campaign for a rights-respecting society and will work towards young people’s voices being heard at the heart of decision-making in Scotland. The impact of this legislation cannot go understated.”
A view from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland
In reporting the passage of the Bill, the Law Society of Scotland quotes the Commissioner, Bruce Adamson:
“Scotland has shown real human rights leadership in incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law. It is the most important thing we can do to protect and uphold the rights of children and young people.
“Exactly 18 years ago, the Scottish Parliament showed its commitment to children’s rights by creating the office of the Children’s Commissioner and today it has reinforced that commitment by passing the Scottish Government’s world-leading children’s human rights legislation. This will improve life for all children but children whose rights are most at risk will feel the biggest impact.”