Advancing childrens rights in law

From: Scottish Government
Published: Fri Dec 08 2023

Amended UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Bill passed.

A Bill to provide greater protection of children's rights has been passed by the Scottish Parliament for a second time.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) Bill requires Scotland's public authorities to protect children's human rights in their decision-making when delivering functions conferred by Acts of the Scottish Parliament. It also allows for children, young people and their representatives to use the courts to enforce their rights.

Several sections of the original Bill, which was passed unanimously in 2021, were ruled by the Supreme Court to be outwith the Scottish Parliament's legislative competence, following referral by the UK Government. MSPs have now backed an amended bill with reduced scope.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“This Bill is an important milestone in ensuring that children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled under Scots law.

“Although Scotland will become the first devolved nation in the world to incorporate the convention into domestic law, we are limited in what we can achieve because of the nature of the devolution settlement.

“We've had to limit the scope of this Bill because of legal action taken by the UK Government. That is deeply disappointing. So, while this Bill is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it remains the case that the only way to protect children's rights in the delivery of all public services in Scotland is for the UK Government to fully implement UNCRC. Unfortunately for Scotland's children and young people, they remain firmly opposed to such action.”

Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament Mollie McGoran MSYP said:

“The passing of the UNCRC Incorporation Bill is an important step in Scotland's human rights journey. Whilst there has been challenges, this is a momentous day for the children and young people who have long campaigned for their rights to be respected in law and I want to thank and congratulate everyone who has worked for UNCRC incorporation.

“Decision makers and duty bearers in Scotland must now work towards embedding and respecting children and young people's rights in every aspect of Scottish life. We want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up and this is now an incredible opportunity to make that a reality.”

Member of Children's Parliament Omima said: “I think the change is definitely going to be gradual. But I think if it is up there, and children know “all my rights do matter enough to be put into law” then they're going to start valuing themselves more, and valuing the way that they're treated and the way that adults especially treat them. I think that's just to me a big pick up for our generation - to make us feel as if we are heard and valued as people not just as children.”


The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was first passed by the Scottish Parliament unanimously on 16 March 2021.

Certain provisions in the Bill were subsequently referred to the Supreme Court by the UK Government, 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 amended Bill means 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.

Company: Scottish Government

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