UNCRC: Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services Guidance Sub-Group minutes - May 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Lyndsey Saki (Chair), Scottish Government (LS)
  • Luiza Leite (Minutes), Scottish Government (LL)
  • Lesleyann Russell, Scottish Government (LR) 
  • Susan Revie, Scottish Government (SR)
  • Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland (JD) 
  • Darren Little, Dumfries and Galloway Council (DL)
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF (DN)
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, COSLA (RCB) 
  • Felicia Szloboda, Improvement Service (FS)
  • Sarah Rodger, SOLAR (SR) 
  • Rebecca Spillane, Improvement Service (RS)  


  • Grant Trainer, Police Scotland  
  • Tamar Jamieson, Police Scotland 
  • Julie Williams, CCPS 
  • Gita Sharkey, Scottish Government 
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Vicky Wan, Children’s Parliament  

Items and actions

1. Welcome, apologies and introductions of first-time attendees

LS welcomed members and noted any apologies received.

2. Review of minutes and action points

There were two actions from the previous meeting on the 21st of March:

  • LS to share final sections of statutory guidance ahead of the next meeting.
  • LS agreed to check if there has been any progress on discussions around reporting in the National Leadership group for Children and Families.

These are complete. LS confirmed that the NLG group are interested in progressing discussions around reporting, with an upcoming meeting scheduled for October. LR from the Embedding team will join this discussion.

Members approved the minutes from the meeting held on 21 March and these will be published on the group page shortly. 

3. Update on remedial work on Bill 

LS shared the following update with members:

The First Minister set out his ambition to make Scotland the first UK nation to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law, ensuring we are a country that respects, protects and fulfils children’s rights. 

It is critical to get this Bill right for children now and for generations of children to come. The Scottish Government is committed to bringing the UNCRC Bill to Parliament for reconsideration as soon as practicable.

Work to achieve this is well underway, including engagement with UK Government lawyers to try to reduce the risk of another referral to the Supreme Court on a revised Bill. We do not have a timeline as yet.

We are considering whether any of the provisions in the Bill can be commenced early. The provisions in the Bill would automatically commence 6 months from Royal Assent. 

To commence the public authority compatibility duty any earlier than that would be extremely challenging because we cannot consult on the statutory guidance until the Bill receives Royal Assent.

A follow up question was raised on whether the Bill might come back to Parliament before the summer recess. LS confirmed this is still the intention and that we hope to be able to share more at the next meeting. 

4. Discussion on final sections of statutory guidance

Members had received a copy of the following sections of statutory guidance ahead of the meeting:

  • respecting, protecting and fulfilling children’s rights  
  • progressive realisation 
  • maximum available resources

The following discussion points and feedback was captured: 

Members expressed that the extent of the international obligations on public authorities and how this applies in practice needs to be further clarified. LS explained that the international concepts do not flow through to domestic legislation and the extent to which these obligations will apply to public authorities will be for the courts to determine. Our hope is that an understanding of these international principles will help support public authorities in meeting their duties. 

Consistent terminology should be used throughout the text. It was noted that some parts of the document refer to duty bearers and other parts to public authorities. It was suggested that it may be more appropriate to refer to duty bearers instead of public authorities, as some sections of the Bill apply to private bodies. LS noted that the term ‘public authorities’ in the Bill refers to all organisations undertaking a public function. The sections will be reviewed to ensure consistent use of terminology. 

The feedback on the progressive realisation section was generally positive. DN noted that this section may be strengthened by the inclusion of: General Comment 5; research commissioned by SG and the Human Rights Taskforce on progressive realisation of human rights; and comparative evidence from countries that have already incorporated the convention. There may also be useful existing materials on the interpretation of article 4. 

Members agreed that public authorities will either need more clarity on these concepts and how they apply to them, or it needs to be stated more explicitly that we do not yet know how this will be interpreted in Scotland. The group agreed that this should be clarified and placed at the beginning of each section. 

A suggestion was made that not all the detail is required, and that this section could be shortened.

DN stated that waiting for case law examples might not be the best solution. Public authorities will want to know how they can best apply these concepts to avoid legal action. 

RS noted that understanding around progressive realisation is important for local authorities (LAs) and worked examples would help to improve practice. In her meetings with LAs, minimum core is not often referenced – more understanding may be needed on this area. 

LS noted that these concepts are being looked at as part of the Human Rights Bill, so conversations are live. 

Progressive realisation and maximum available resources are also relevant to Part 3 guidance on reporting. Once these sections are finalised, they will be linked to in Part 3 guidance.  

DN suggested that it could be useful to have case studies on these concepts. It may be useful to look at how public authorities in other countries have interpreted and applied these principles. 

Action: LS to review guidance section based on feedback 


Draft statutory guidance would be consulted on as soon as practicable post Royal Assent. The consultation will take 12 weeks and the feedback will be analysed and used to update the guidance. Timescales are dependent on the commencement period. We will publish the final statutory guidance as soon as practicable but this could be post commencement. 

Previously published non-statutory guidance is in the process of being updated and we will aim to make it available ahead of commencement. It’s important we clearly frame how this guidance should be used with the upcoming statutory guidance.

We will aim to have a final draft of the non-statutory guidance ready by the end of June. As the content has been split, members have seen most of the content in previous statutory guidance drafts. LS offered to share a copy with members, highlighting where any new content was added. Members are not obliged to comment but we will welcome any feedback. 

5. Any other business and date of next meeting 

The Innovation Fund will launch on the 11th May. Further information can be found on Corra Foundation’s website. There is a planned info webinar for potential applicants at 10am on 23rd May, registration for the event can be found under the “Can I apply?” section of the Corra webpage. Members can contact lesleyann.russell@gov.scot directly for more info.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 13 June 2023.

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