Incorporation of UNCRC into Scots law to be considered at Holyrood

New legislation which would incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law and allow children to take public authorities to court for breaches of their rights is to be considered by a Holyrood Committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee has issued a call for views on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which aims to ensure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled by councils, health boards and other public bodies.

The bill legally obliges public authorities – including Scottish ministers – to respect children’s rights, placing them under a duty not to act incompatibly with the UN Convention, while ministers will also be required to make a Children’s Rights Scheme to set out how it will comply with the duty.

Children and representatives acting on their behalf will be able to challenge public authorities in court for infringing their rights, and the new legislation will allow the courts to strike down legislation – in limited circumstances – that is incompatible with any UNCRC requirements.

The bill also provides new powers to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland (CYPCS) to litigate in the public interest, which would enable the commissioner to take cases to court on behalf of children and provide advice to courts about the convention.

Committee convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said: “The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world and this bill aims to incorporate the treaty into domestic law so that all children in Scotland – whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion or abilities – have their rights respected.

“We want to hear from children and young people, as well from public authorities and third sector organisations, about whether they think this legislation will make it easier for children to access and enforce their rights.

“Children have different experiences and backgrounds, so we want to explore the existing barriers which currently prevent young people from making sure their rights are respected.

“We also want to consider whether the bill goes far enough and if there is anything more that can be done to make children’s rights stronger in Scotland.”