Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland: action plan 2021 to 2024

This action plan details what we will do to further the rights of children for the next three years from 2021 to 2024.

How Children and Young People have shaped Scotland's approach

The Scottish Government is commitment to making Scotland the best place to grow up. Children and young people have been increasingly involved in shaping our ambitions around children's rights for over a decade and we are very grateful for the insight and influence they have brought to bear. Examples include:

2009 – 2013

2009: Publication of 'Do the Right Thing' the Scottish Government's direct response to the UN Committee's 2008 Concluding Observations was informed by consultation activity with children and young people; followed in 2012 by an update to 'Do the Right Thing' which responded to Together's 2011 State of Children's Rights report.

2014 – 2017

2014: Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (2014 Act) duty on Ministers to develop actions, listen to children and promote public awareness and understanding of children's rights – a response to calls from children and young people that more should be done to raise awareness of the UNCRC. In 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's Vice Chair visited Scotland to hear directly from children and young people. Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) later travelled to Geneva to give evidence to the UN Committee at its pre-sessional meeting, specifically calling for a plan from Scottish Government to set out how children and young people could be involved in the development of policy. In 2017, members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children's Parliament had their first annual meeting with the Scottish Cabinet to highlight a range of rights issues, including the need for UNCRC to be further reflected in Scots law.

2018 – 2021

2018: SYP Rights Review Event – MSYPs presented the views of their constituents to the Cabinet Secretaries, Scottish Ministers and Scottish Government officials. The Children's Parliament organised 5 workshops to enable younger children to have their voices heard. The Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018-2021, which was published in December 2018, directly responded to children's calls for an Action Plan for taking forward children's rights. In 2019: A public consultation took place on the model of incorporation of UNCRC into Scots law to deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and their families. Engagement events, including with children and young people, informed the approach taken and consultation process. Children and young people were clear about what incorporation should look like. In 2020, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill (UNCRC Bill) was introduced on 1 September 2020 and unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, signalling a revolution in children's rights in Scotland. On 12 April 2021, a reference of certain provisions of the Bill was made by UK Law Officers to the UK Supreme Court and a hearing before the UK Supreme Court took place on 28 and 29 June 2021. In October 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the Bill fell out with the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government is urgently and carefully considering the implications of the Supreme Court judgment and how best to take that work forward. The Scottish Government remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable, and the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can, and is, continuing.

The Scottish Government is grateful to all of the children and young people and representative organisations who have guided and supported our efforts over the past decade to help ensure that children and young people across Scotland, particularly those who are vulnerable, can better experience their rights.

How Children and Young People have shaped the 2021 Action Plan

The strategic actions included in the 2021 Action Plan reflect the views expressed by children and young people during the 2019 consultation in relation to the UNCRC Bill. The Scottish Government also sought views on the strategic actions included in the 2021 Action Plan from the Children and Young People's Interim Consortium.

The Interim Consortium was established in September 2021 to support the meaningful, inclusive, and ongoing participation of children and young people in the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board and wider implementation programme. It is made up of 6 organisations – Aberlour, Carers Trust Scotland, Children in Scotland, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, Scottish Youth Parliament, Who Cares? Scotland – and is co-ordinated by Together – Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights.

The children and young people in the Interim Consortium discussed priorities across the proposed four strategic actions in the Action Plan. Based on what they said, key principles have been identified. These principles need to underpin the four strategic actions and considered at every stage of activity. This will support children's need to be:

  • Respected – a culture shift is required to ensure that children and young people are being respected and that their rights are protected in all aspects of their life.
  • Informed – children need to know about things that are happening to them in their lives.
  • Listened to – their views need to be taken seriously and actioned.
  • Included – we need to ensure that those children most at risk of having their rights breached are included in all decision making relating to children's rights.
  • Supported – adults need to receive training and awareness about children's rights to ensure that children's rights are being respected, protected and fulfilled.
  • Protected – children need to feel that adults are actively protecting and upholding their rights across all of society and this must go beyond public authorities.

The Scottish Government will continue to engage with the Interim Consortium and with wider groups on children and young people, including those who are seldom heard, in taking forward this Action Plan and specific policy initiatives.

"We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential" "We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination"



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