This year marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). As the Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People, I am proud that we are continuing to make positive progress towards embedding and fulfilling children's rights across Scotland. This Government has committed to going further by incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law in this parliamentary session. I want to deliver the 'gold standard' for Scotland within the powers that are available to us. Through the responses to our consultation, it is clear there is widespread support for directly and fully incorporating all of the rights set out in the Convention. Our Bill will instead take a maximalist approach. We will incorporate the rights set out in the UNCRC in full and directly in every case possible - using the language of the Convention. Our only limitation will be the limit of the powers of this Parliament – limits to which many of us obviously object. The Bill will also make provision to allow incorporation of those provisions of the Convention currently beyond our powers into our domestic law if – and when - the powers of the Scottish Parliament change in the future.
The Bill to incorporate the UNCRC will aim to ensure that there is a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland. This will mean that children, young people and their families will experience public bodies consistently acting to uphold the rights of all children in Scotland.
Underpinning this is our vision for a Scotland where children are recognised as citizens in their own right, where their 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 have a voice and are empowered to be human rights defenders. This vision builds on the fantastic legacy of our first ever Year of Young People in 2018. Children and young people were involved at every stage in the development and delivery of that very special year, which celebrated the achievements of our young people and provided them with new and powerful ways to express their creativity, skills and talents.
The year 2018 also marked the publication of our Report and Action Plan, Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland, the first documents published in accordance with our duties under Part 1, section 1(4) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The Report summarised our activities to progress children's rights since commencement of the duties in June 2015. The three year Action Plan sets out our commitment to strategic actions to deliver transformational change in how children and young people experience their rights from 2018 until 2021.
This document is our first annual update on the three year Action Plan. As well as confirming progress made in relation to our four strategic actions, this Report also provides an updated list of examples of the specific policies and initiatives that are also helping to take forward children's rights.
2019 has seen significant progress in realising children's rights in Scotland. In addition to confirming our commitment to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law, this year's Programme for Government, Protecting Scotland's Future, also set out many important actions to improve the lives of our children and young people. The Programme has a particular focus on our commitments to tackling child poverty and the climate emergency. These are issues that many children and young people raise with me as priorities for action. This year will also see progress towards the implementation of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019, which raises the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years, and the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019, which removes the legal defence which allows parents to physically punish their children. The Children (Scotland) Bill will progress through Parliament, to ensure that children's voices are heard clearly in family law cases. We are also continuing to take action to tackle Adverse Childhood Experiences and to improve outcomes for looked after children, while the Independent Care Review prepares to report early next year.
In taking forward these, and other relevant commitments, I am delighted to continue to have the opportunity to work on behalf of children and young people and with our many partners to make rights real for all children in Scotland.
Maree Todd MSP
Minister for Children and Young People
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