Children’s Rights in Scotland

Children's Rights in Scotland © Murray Prior

On 22 January, UNICEF UK hosted the third of four planned events to promote its new research: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: a study of legal implementation in 12 countries”. Taking place in the Scottish Parliament, the event was ably chaired by Neil Bibby MSP, Shadow Minister for Children and Young People.

UNICEF UK wanted to better understand how other countries have brought children’s rights into domestic law and policy development – to show not only that it can be done but that it does make a difference.

The research team was led by Professors Laura Lundy from Queen’s University Belfast and Ursula Kilkelly from University College Cork. Although the report shows there is no single set approach to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it does indicate that incorporation of the CRC into domestic law provides a platform from which other child rights measures flow. Both the process of incorporation (including awareness-raising and training) and the result (where the CRC becomes part of the decision-making system) have significant value in mainstreaming children’s rights, and in making them ‘real’.

We know that Scotland has ambitious plans for children’s rights. However, we are still waiting to see the detail of what is proposed in the forthcoming Children and Young People Bill. At the event, Aileen Campbell MSP (Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People) pointed out the progress already made and what is to come, emphasising that children’s rights measures must be practical and effective. Although the CRC is influencing legislative developments in Scotland, she wants it to be balanced against safeguards that allow the Scottish Government to ensure that decisions made are reasonable.

Anita Tiessen laid out UNICEF UK’s recommendations that the new Bill require Scottish ministers and public bodies to ‘act compatibly’ with the CRC and that the Scottish Government publish a children’s rights implementation scheme. We also want the UK Government to set out a roadmap towards full incorporation of the CRC.

As our final speaker, Professor Kay Tisdall from Edinburgh University, noted; rights are not only legal concepts, they also represent a value base. If we truly value children and young people, then we need to respect them – for the contributions they already make to family and community, and for their views individually and collectively. We need to recognise this in law.

Lisa Payne is Domestic Policy and Parliamentary Manager at UNICEF UK

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