Incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law: consultation

Views sought on how best to incorporate 'gold standard' for children's rights into domestic law and improve the lives of children and young people.


Children and young people are at the heart of our ambitions for the future and their rights are a key priority.  As a Government, our mission is to achieve the National Outcome for children and young people; we grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential. 

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced.  The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.  Covering all aspects of a child’s life, it makes clear that every child has rights, irrespective of their status and that we, as the government, must work together with adults to make sure all children can enjoy them. 

We believe that delivering the rights of children and young people, as enshrined in the UNCRC, is fundamental to making children’s rights real and Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.  One of the most fundamental tests of our success in respecting and protecting those rights is whether they are part of the day-to-day lived experience of every child and young person in Scotland.  We want a Scotland where policy, law and decision making takes account of children’s rights and where all children have a voice and are empowered not just to know and understand their rights, but also to assert and defend those rights and the rights of others.  

That is why we believe it is now time to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law.  In a number of countries, incorporation into domestic law has been found to have a positive impact on children’s lives.  Arguably more importantly, the value to children, young people and families in Scotland is that children’s rights will be built into policy, law and practice so all children can benefit from and exercise these rights in their daily lives. Incorporating the UNCRC into our domestic law in Scotland will also enable children, and those acting on their behalf, to advance their rights in the Scottish courts.  

To underline our commitment, we will deliver new legislation in this parliamentary session to incorporate the UNCRC into our domestic law.  We also want to be an example to other countries and so will consider where it may be possible for Scots law to go further than the UNCRC requires, where that is demonstrably beneficial for children and young people. 

This consultation seeks views on the best way of incorporating the UNCRC within the context of Scots law, public services and the powers of the Scottish Parliament. 

We welcome all views on how a new Act of the Scottish Parliament could best give practical effect to the UNCRC in a way that demonstrates international leadership and works for every child and young person in Scotland. 

The proposals consulted on in this paper raise fundamental questions for the laws of Scotland and for the operation of our Parliament.  Arguably it has never been more important for human rights, not least the rights of our young people, to be defended and promoted and this is a chance for the Scottish Parliament to show leadership.  This consultation explores the issues which need to be addressed, in order to make our international obligations part of the day-to-day experience of our children. 

There is no single right or wrong answer and there will be complex issues to consider in our journey to incorporation.  This Government believes, however, that incorporation of the UNCRC has the potential to transform the experience of children and young people in Scotland.  Together we have already achieved a lot but we look forward to hearing your views on how we can do much more. 

John Swinney
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

Maree Todd
Minister for Children and Young People



Back to top