Protecting children’s rights

Next steps for landmark legislation.

Plans to progress Scotland’s ground-breaking children’s rights legislation have been announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was backed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021, but could not be implemented because of a legal challenge brought by the UK Government. In October, the Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the Bill were outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government has now set out how it will address this. Over the next few weeks, there will be targeted engagement with relevant organisations and children and young people on proposed changes to the Bill. These will then be brought before Parliament via the Reconsideration Stage.

The Deputy First Minister said:

“The UNCRC Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament to deliver the highest protection possible for children’s rights. The Supreme Court ruling was bitterly disappointing, but we have fully respected and carefully considered its implications.

“We sought support from the UK Government to make modest adjustments to the Scotland Act to address the issues with the devolution settlement that the Supreme Court ruling highlighted. Despite their public commitment to engage constructively, this was rejected by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

“As a result, we will remove UK Acts from the remedial provisions within the Bill, which is a dilution of the effect of the legislation, and we will consult with children and young people on the proposed changes.

“It is disappointing that this will not become law in the form which our Parliament agreed. However, we can now move forward with legislation to build a Scotland where respect for human rights anchors our society and the institutions which govern and deliver public services.”


The UNCRC Bill seeks to incorporate as much of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as possible into Scots law.  The intent behind the Bill is to deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland.

As passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Bill would require Scotland’s public authorities to take proactive steps to ensure the protection of children’s rights in their decision-making and service delivery and make it unlawful for public authorities, including the Scottish Government, to act incompatibly with the UNCRC requirements as set out in the Bill. Children, young people and their representatives would have a new ability to use the courts to enforce their rights.

The Supreme Court also ruled that certain provisions in the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill are outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament. This Bill is intended to develop and further strengthen the relationship between Scottish Government and local government in Scotland, ensuring that priorities and policies are developed and delivered in partnership. This is a Members’ Bill and Scottish Government officials will work with the member to support them to bring forward the necessary amendments.

Information about the Reconsideration Stage can be found on the Scottish Parliament website

Next Steps: European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill and the UNCRC Bill – Statement by Deputy First Minister John Swinney – Tuesday 24 May 2022


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