Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland - action plan: progress report 2020

The Report sets out progress made in taking forward the actions in the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018 to 2021 since November 2019.


We will incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law. 

The Scottish Government is committed to a revolution in children’s rights. The dual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union underline the importance of human rights being further built into the fabric of our society. This is particularly important in relation to children and young people, whose futures depend on the action taken by all public authorities to implement their rights in practice. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the global “gold standard” for children’s rights. A public consultation was undertaken in the summer of 2019 on incorporating the UNCRC into our domestic law in Scotland. Non-confidential consultation responses along with an independent analysis of the consultation responses by ARAD Research were published on 20 November 2019 on the Scottish Government website. 

Following wide public consultation and engagement in 2019, including with children and young people, the Deputy First Minister announced on 20 November 2019 that incorporation would take a maximalist approach to ensure that children’s rights are protected, respected and fulfilled in Scotland to the maximum extent of the Scottish Parliament’s powers. 

Decisions around the approach to incorporation were also informed by the Incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Domestic Law in Scotland Working Group. The short-life Working Group, made up of stakeholders from public authorities, the third sector, the Scottish Youth Parliament, academia and the legal profession, met eight times from 25 June 2019 to 24 February 2020. A final Summary Report, was published on 27 July 2020 on the Scottish Government’s website.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill (“the Bill”) was introduced to Parliament on 1 September 2020. The Bill and its accompanying documents were published on the Scottish Parliament’s website on 2 September. The Bill will make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements, giving children, young people and their representatives the power to go to court to enforce their rights. The Bill:

  • directly incorporates the UNCRC as far as possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament;
  • makes it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements;
  • gives power to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland to take certain legal actions in relation to children’s rights;
  • requires Scottish Ministers to produce a Children’s Rights Scheme, setting out how they comply with children’s rights and to report annually; and
  • requires listed public authorities to report every three years on how they comply with children’s rights.

The Bill also allows for incorporation of the articles of the UNCRC currently beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament, should these powers change in the future. 

The introduction of the Bill was met with widespread support:

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
Incorporation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most important thing we can do to protect children’s human rights. Amazing to hear @scotgov announce the legislation which will take a maximalist approach. Huge credit to all #HumanRightsDefenders who fought for it!

“After decades of campaigning…. this is amazing”

Children in Scotland
“We’re delighted by @scotgov announcement that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will be incorporated into Scots law by the end of this @ScotParl term.”

This will ensure that the rights of cyp/families are built into all aspects of public life. #UNCRCScotland

Children’s Parliament
“Every child deserves to be happy, healthy and safe.”

This is a milestone after years of campaigning by children, young people & wider civil society. The UNCRC Incorporation bill represents growing support for children’s rights across Scotland.

Scottish Youth Parliament
In these uncertain times, the legal protection for children and young people’s rights is more important than ever. 

Today marks a milestone in over 10 years of campaigning by children, young people and wider civil society, and we’re proud to be a part of it! #UNCRCScotland

The Equalities and Human Rights Committee is the designated lead parliamentary Committee for Stage 1 scrutiny of the Bill. The Committee’s call for views on the Bill was live from 7 September to 16 October 2020. In addition, the Committee has invited views from children and young people up to Friday 20 November 2020.

Whilst incorporation of the UNCRC will be a monumental moment for Scotland, we recognise that legislation by itself will not deliver our ambitions for children’s rights in Scotland. One of the most fundamental tests of 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. Incorporation will undoubtedly provide the catalyst for change, but ensuring that every child and young person experiences their rights through the services they receive will require a
co-ordinated programme of work developed and delivered with public authorities, the third sector, children, young people and their families. We are therefore developing a 3 year implementation programme, informed by the 3-step Improvement Framework for Scotland’s Public Services, to ensure that the Bill’s duties are fulfilled with children’s rights being embedded in decision-making at all levels in public services. As set out in the Financial Memorandum to the Bill, this will include activity under 3 main themes. While it is helpful to package activities in this way, these themes will not be exclusive of one another and all will require appropriate engagement with relevant stakeholders, including children, young people and their families. 

Leadership – The Scottish Government is fully committed to ensuring that accessible guidance and training is developed as part of an implementation programme in support of the Bill and for public authorities to support preparation and planning in advance of commencement of the Bill. This will be supported by a central implementation team within the Scottish Government who will be dedicated to co-producing and delivering effective guidance and training with public authorities and the third sector so that it best meets the needs of practitioners, and the rights of the children and young people they serve. The Scottish Government will ensure that an appropriate governance structure provides collective leadership to the implementation programme. The central implementation team will also be responsible for delivery of the Scottish Government’s Children’s Rights Scheme. The Scottish Government will continue to make the CRWIA guidance and templates freely available so partners in the public sector and the third sector can assess how their policy and practice impacts on children’s rights and wellbeing. 

Empowering children to claim their rights – Ensuring that children, young people and their families can claim their rights is central to delivering a Scotland where human rights are made real. Children’s rights awareness-raising and children and young people’s participation are two of the strategic priorities to which the Scottish Government is already committed. The Scottish Government will make available a fund of £250,000 for awareness-raising in each of the three years of the implementation programme, with a commitment to increase funding to enable the participation of children and young people in decision-making in public services by £100,000 in each year for the same period. The awareness-raising activities aim to support children and young people across Scotland to be human rights defenders and challenge breaches of their and others’ rights. The fund for participation will look to provide a sustainable approach to the strategic participation of children and young people in decision-making, and to enable the voices of those children and young people who are seldom heard to be listened to. A social marketing campaign, at a cost of £200,000, will also be developed and delivered. This campaign will aim to raise the profile and support for children’s rights across Scottish society.

Embedding children’s rights in public services – The Scottish Government recognises the vital role that public services play in delivering for children, young people and their communities. To ensure that public services are appropriately supported in delivering the step change in respecting, protecting and fulfilling children’s rights that the Bill seeks to deliver, the Scottish Government will create a fund of £835,000 to support the delivery of this implementation. The fund will provide flexibility for an innovative implementation programme that gives the public sector access to the expertise of the third sector and the central implementation team. This fund will include a design phase to listen to children, young people and their families about what will make a difference to their experience of rights respecting public services and to engage with public bodies on their priorities for fulfilling their duties. This approach will enable public authorities to tailor implementation activities to best meet the rights of the children and communities they serve. £85,000 will be made available in the first year for the design phase. The fund will deliver capacity-building and awareness-raising activities to practitioners in public services in Scotland. The fund will also be used to provide intensive support to senior leaders in public services to take proactive steps to embed children’s rights in their organisations and communities. Over the implementation programme, the fund will also make available £750,000 to support public services to consider how to progressively realise the rights of children by utilising available resources to the maximum extent. 

The Scottish Government recognises that consultation and engagement with children and young people and the full range of duty bearers and stakeholders is key to bringing about the fundamental change required to make rights a reality for all children in Scotland. The Scottish Government has had further discussions with a range of organisations including COSLA and local authorities, child protection committees, justice and courts partners, social work bodies, and children’s rights stakeholders to explore the implications of the Bill. We will continue this dialogue with public authorities and stakeholders, including children, young people and their families, in the development and delivery of an implementation plan in support of the Bill.



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