Following over a decade of campaigning by children’s charities, organisations, and most importantly, children and young people themselves, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is set to become law in Scotland. On setting out the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020-21, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that the UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill will deliver “a revolution in children’s rights”. So why is incorporation important, and what difference will it make to the lives of children and young people in Scotland?
The UNCRC sets out human rights that all children and young people are entitled to. These rights include the right to an education, the right to be listened to and taken seriously, the right to housing, food and clothing, the right to relax and play, and the right to be protected from violence, abuse and neglect. The UK ratified the Convention in 1991 but it has not yet been incorporated into domestic law anywhere in the UK. This means that currently many of the rights in the Convention are not accessible to children and young people in the UK. This is set to change in Scotland, as the UNCRC Incorporation Scotland Bill will incorporate, as far as possible, the UNCRC into Scots law.
The importance of incorporation cannot be overstated. It is undoubtedly a huge step forward in making rights real for children and young people across Scotland. Once the Bill is passed, the UNCRC will become binding in Scots law. The Bill aims to ensure that children’s rights are respected and protected in the law in Scotland, and that public authorities are legally required to respect and protect children’s rights in all the work that they do. Importantly, if children’s rights are breached by public authorities, children, young people and their representatives, will be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.
The legal significance of incorporation is of course crucial. Equally crucial, is the cultural change that learning from other countries suggests will be borne from this legislative change. Evidence from countries where incorporation has taken place such as Norway, Finland and Iceland indicates that incorporation results in increased awareness and understanding of children’s rights at all levels of society, which serves to foster a greater culture of respect for children and young people.
Ultimately, incorporation means that children’s rights will be at the heart of decision-making, laws and policies in Scotland. This can surely only lead to better outcomes for all of Scotland’s children and young people, including those from Armed Forces families. We look forward to seeing the Bill become law and hope it will mean the rights of all children and young people across Scotland will truly be fully recognised and respected in all aspects of their lives.
There is still time to tell the Equalities and Human Rights Committee about your views on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, The Consultation ends on the 16th of October. https://yourviews.parliament.scot/ehrc/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-bill/