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.

Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2021-2024

Our Vision

A Scotland where children's rights are respected, protectedand fulfilled

Our Aims:

  • To incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable.
  • To enable all children in Scotland to be aware of and understand their rights.
  • To ensure all children in Scotland experience public services consistently upholding their rights.
  • To bring about a fundamental shift in culture in Scottish society which will deliver a revolution in children's rights.


  • In line with the duties placed on Scottish Ministers in relation to children's rights under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the 2021 Report and Action Plan combine to provide detailed information on progress made to further children's rights since the last Action Plan was published in 2018, and sets out the ambitious plans to give better and further effect to the UNCRC over the next 3 years.
  • In the summer of 2019 the Scottish Government consulted on incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law in Scotland. 162 responses were received including 13 responses from organisations which specifically represented the views of children and young people. Views were collected by these organisations during consultation events, young people's forums and workshops. The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (the "Bill") was introduced to Parliament on 1 September 2020 along with the Policy Memorandum and Financial Memorandum which set out the high level plan for a three year implementation programme covering three strands, which have been further developed into four strands in partnership with stakeholders, and are now set out below.
  • On 16 March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law to the maximum extent possible, signalling a revolution in children's rights in Scotland. On 12 April 2021, a reference of certain provisions of the Bill was made by the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Scotland to the UK Supreme Court. A hearing before the UK Supreme Court took place on 28 and 29 June 2021.
  • In July 2021 the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board was convened to provide strategic vision and oversight of a comprehensive and joined up 3 year programme to implement the UNCRC so that children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland. The Board developed and agreed the vision and aims set out in this action plan.
  • In October 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the Bill fell outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government is committed to protecting the rights of children and young people and remains committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible, as soon as practicable. We are urgently and carefully considering the implications of the judgment and how best to take that work forward. However, the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can, and is, continuing.
  • This Action Plan takes account of the findings of the consultation in 2019, and subsequent stakeholder engagement, and focusses on the Strategic Actions that we will take forward with partners in our 3 year implementation programme, to ensure that children's human rights are better protected, respected and fulfilled throughout Scotland.


A list of current priorities being taken forward within the four strands of the Scottish Government's UNCRC Implementation Programme to respect, protect and fulfil children's rights. Further details on the Children's Rights Scheme

"We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society" "We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe"

Our Vision

A Scotland where children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled


UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board

Children and Young People's Consortium

Scottish Government Leadership For Children's Rights

We will ensure that the Scottish Government is a leader for children's rights and a role model to others in upholding children's rights, as well as ensuring all Scottish Government policy and legislation is UNCRC compliant by:

  • Remaining committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC into domestic law to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable.
  • Developing and delivering a strategic plan for raising awareness and training on the UNCRC and children's rights across the Scottish Government and its agencies.
  • Promoting the importance and adoption of Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) and continuing work to improve CRWIA training and develop an impact evaluation process.
  • Consulting on, and publishing, a Children's Rights Scheme which will set out how Scottish Government will give better and further effect to the rights of children (further details in Annex A).

Empowering Children And Young People To Claim Their Rights

We will create and amplify systems that enable children and young people to be empowered human rights defenders. We will drive forward a rights-based approach to participation, ensuring we listen, consider, and respond to representative voices of children and young people, and particularly those who are seldom heard by:

  • Co-creating a national awareness raising campaign for children's rights with children and families, to ensure that children, young people, their families and all of Scottish society are aware of and understand the UNCRC, and to support them to be rights defenders.
  • Producing a wide range of information and guidance resources aimed at raising public awareness to increase individuals' understanding of children's rights.
  • Establishing a consortium of organisations to support a sustainable, meaningful and inclusive approach to participation of children and young people in decision-making.

Embedding Children's Rights In Public Services

We will ensure that there is a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland by:

  • Producing guidance for public authorities, and those undertaking functions of a public nature, to implement the UNCRC.
  • Developing a Children's Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework to support capacity building in public services in taking a child's rights approach in practice to drive forward the culture change required.
  • Developing a National Improvement Programme, which will include an approach to self evaluation, and the creation of an Innovation Fund to provide financial support for testing and implementing creative approaches to embedding children's rights.

Children's Rights Resolution

We will provide targeted support in a number of areas which, when progressed, will significantly improve the way that children and young people access and experience their rights, by:

  • Working with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to develop a child-friendly complaints process to ensure children and young people are able to access their rights.
  • Working across Scottish Government and with stakeholders to review existing advocacy arrangements to support children and young people in accessing their rights, and to consider how we can strengthen the provision of advocacy to children and young people who need it.
  • Developing an Evaluation and Monitoring Framework to monitor and evaluate the delivery, aims and impact of the UNCRC Implementation Programme, whilst simultaneously linking progress in embedding children's rights to long-term outcomes for children and young people.

How will we know we are making progress?

The UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board will monitor progress and we will provide an update on these strategic actions each year.



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