I am delighted to share this standalone Position Statement, which sets out the progress that we are continuing to make in embedding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Scotland. The contents of this document reflect our absolute commitment to ensuring that children and young people can fully experience their rights.
I am immensely proud of the genuine progress that we have made in Scotland. By working closely with Parliament, public authorities, third sector organisations and children and young people themselves, our combined efforts have delivered a wide range of measures that give further and fuller effect to the rights of the child.
In March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill (the UNCRC Bill), an exciting and historic moment in Scotland's continuing children's rights journey. In seeking to incorporate the UNCRC directly into Scots law, subject to the limits of devolved competence, the Bill would ensure that the rights contained in the UNCRC are afforded the highest protection and respect possible within our constitutional settlement. As passed, the Bill would deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland. It would also ensure that children and young people and their representatives can use the courts to enforce their rights.
Whilst we were disappointed when the UK Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the UNCRC Bill were outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament, we remain committed to incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law. As set out by the Deputy First Minister in his statement to Parliament in May 2022, we will bring forward the required amending legislation as soon as practicable and our planning for the reconsideration stage is well underway.
Alongside the UNCRC Bill, we have also taken forward a wide range of substantive measures as part of our commitment to ensure that children's rights are better protected, respected, and fulfilled. These actions, which are discussed in detail in this Position Statement, include our record levels of investment to tackle child poverty in Scotland, including through the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, the expansion of free school meals, and the near doubling of the funded hours of early learning and childcare. They also include measures to help close the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland's schools.
Following the independent review of the care system, we are committed to 'Keep the Promise' to our children and young people so that all children grow up loved, safe and respected.
In addition, implementation of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault)(Scotland) Act 2019 has provided children with the same legal protection from assault as adults. We have also increased the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from 8 to 12 years, the highest within the four UK nations, and committed to reviewing the operation of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019, including with a view to considering the future age of criminal responsibility.
The report also highlights our plan to introduce a Human Rights Bill which will incorporate, as far as possible within devolved competence, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, alongside three other international human rights treaties for the empowerment of women, disabled people, and minority ethnic people. This, and the other measures set out within this report, reflect our commitment to human rights.
I am profoundly grateful to everyone who has contributed towards the progress that we have made since 2016. Whilst we can be proud of what we have achieved, it is only through further collaborative action that we can deliver our ambitions. As we respond to the economic and other challenges that we face, we will continue our work to ensure that children and young people can better experience their rights, helping to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
Clare Haughey MSP
Minister for Children and Young People
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