Protecting children’s rights in Scots law
15 Sep 2023 11:36 AM
Parliament to reconsider UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Bill.
The Scottish Parliament has agreed to consider amendments to the legislation that will incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill requires Scotland’s public authorities to protect children’s rights in their decision-making. It also allows for children, young people and their representatives to use the courts to enforce their rights. The Bill was passed unanimously in 2021 but certain provisions within it were later ruled outwith the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence at the Supreme Court.
Proposed changes will mean that public authorities will be required to comply with the UNCRC requirements only when delivering devolved functions conferred by or under Acts of the Scottish Parliament or under common law powers.
Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville yesterday said:
“Our priority is to provide the greatest protection that we can to children’s rights.
“The amendments that will now be considered will ensure that the Bill protects children’s rights in the most effective way within our devolved powers.
“This is an important milestone in ensuring that we are a country that fully respects, protects and fulfils children’s rights. However, without the political commitment of the UK Government to legislate for children’s rights we are limited in what we can achieve.
“The simplest way to secure the greatest protection for children’s rights would be for our counterparts in Westminster to incorporate the UNCRC into UK law.”
Letter to committee and amendments
The UNCRC Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament unanimously on 16 March 2021.
Certain provisions in the Bill were referred to the Supreme Court, preventing it from receiving Royal Assent. The Supreme Court judged in October 2021 that section 6 (relating to the compatibility duty) and sections 19, 20 and 21 (relating to the interpretative obligation, strike down power and incompatibility declarator power) were outwith legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. This was an area of the devolution settlement that had not been previously tested in the courts.
The proposed amendments will mean that Public Authorities will be required to comply with the UNCRC requirements only when delivering devolved functions conferred by or under Acts of the Scottish Parliament or under common law powers. Explanatory information on the amendments, and the wording of proposed amendments, has been published by the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee.