United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child implementation: introductory guidance

Non-statutory guidance developed in partnership with public authorities and the third sector, introducing key concepts within the UNCRC and links with further resources for embedding a children’s rights-based approach in public services.

Giving effect to the UNCRC

Ambition for Children's Rights in Scotland

The Scottish Government is committed to Scotland being the best place in the world for a child to grow up. The National Outcome for children and young people is that children grow up loved, safe and respected, so that they reach their full potential. A central part of our vision is the recognition of, respect for, and promotion of children's human rights. These include rights to be treated fairly, to be heard and to be as healthy as possible.

Our vision is a Scotland where children's human rights are embedded in all aspects of society. A Scotland where policy, law and decision-making take account of children's rights and where all children and young people have a voice and are empowered to be human rights defenders.

All individuals and organisations in Scotland can help children and young people to enjoy their rights and fulfil the ambition of making Scotland the best place to grow up.

Children's rights in policy

Scotland has a proud tradition of respecting children's rights, which predates even the adoption of the UNCRC by the UN General Assembly in 1989. For example, our pioneering and unique children's hearings system has operated since 1971.

Children's rights are embedded right across Scotland's policy and legislative landscape. Children's rights are featured in the National Performance Framework including the National Outcome for Children and Young People, that children grow up loved, safe and respected, and so that they reach their full potential.

There are also a number of examples of how children's rights provide a foundation for policies, as they do for the Getting it right for every child approach and The Promise.

Getting it right for every child

With the UNCRC as its foundation, Girfec provides Scotland with a consistent framework and shared language for promoting, supporting, and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people. A report by Professor Jane Aldgate demonstrates how Getting it right for every child fully supports the implementation of UNCRC in Scotland.

The "SHANARRI" wellbeing indicators are also informed by UNCRC rights and requirements. They are overlapping and connect areas that are fundamental to understanding what children and young people need in order to grow, develop and thrive.

Where a child's rights have been respected, protected and fulfilled, their wellbeing should improve. Embedding the UNCRC in policy and practice is a key way to help advance children's wellbeing.

Children's rights in existing legislation

There are already a number of pieces of Scottish legislation which implement the UNCRC in Scots law, such as the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, which provides a major part of the legal framework for child welfare and protection in Scotland.

Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 embeds UNCRC rights in Scottish legislation and places children's rights duties on Scottish Ministers and public authorities. The 2014 Act is an example of so-called 'rights-based' legislation and is a milestone for children's rights in Scotland.

It places a duty on specified public authorities and Scottish Ministers to report every 3 years on the steps they have taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the requirements of the UNCRC. The first set of reports were due as soon as practicable after 1 April 2020.

Part 1 (section 2) of the 2014 Act places a duty on a range of listed public bodies (including all local authorities and relevant health boards) and Scottish Ministers to report, as soon as practicable after the end of each three-year period, on the steps they have taken to better secure, or give further effect to, the UNCRC requirements.

This is also reflected within the review criteria of Part 3 Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 Statutory Guidance (Children's Services Planning). This requires the local authority and health board (working in partnership with Children's Services Planning Partners) to use children's rights to inform the structural, procedural and outcome framework of their plan, making full use of children, young people, and families' suggestions to convey a shared sense of ongoing engagement and ownership.


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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