United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - concluding observations 2023: SG initial response

This report sets out the Scottish Government’s (SG) initial response to the UN Committee’s Concluding Observations. It outlines the progress made in relation to children’s rights in Scotland since the publication of the Position Statement of November 2022


I am delighted to share this report which sets out the Scottish Government’s initial response to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Concluding Observations for the UK State party. The contents of this document reflect our absolute commitment to ensuring that children and young people across Scotland can fully experience their rights.

The UN Committee published its Concluding Observations in June 2023 following an interactive dialogue session with the UK, which took place in Geneva in May 2023. The Scottish Government was represented as part of the UK delegation in Geneva and contributed to both the written and oral evidence provided by the State party. We welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate to the UN Committee the progress that we are continuing to make here in Scotland in taking forward our commitment to place human rights, including the rights of the child, at the heart of all that we do. This includes our actions to:

  • Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 and our commitment to consider a future age of criminal responsibility;
  • Implement the equal protection from assault legislation, providing Scotland’s children with the same legal protection from assault as adults;
  • Tackle child poverty, including through the Scottish Child Payment, the expansion of free school meals and the near doubling of the funded early learning and childcare offer to 1140 hours per year; and
  • Keep the Promise, including through the implementation of Bairns’ Hoose for children and young people who have experienced trauma.

We recognise that our work to embed, promote and protect children’s rights is an ongoing process. We are, therefore, grateful to the UN Committee for their Concluding Observations, which will help guide our next steps in further embedding children’s rights across Scotland.

It is my great pleasure to confirm that the Scottish Parliament has delivered on the most important of the UN Committee’s recommendations for Scotland, which is to take action on incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law. The Scottish Parliament unanimously approved a reconsidered UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill on 7 December 2023. The Bill received Royal Assent on 16 January 2024 and the provisions will commence on 16 July 2024.

Although the Supreme Court judgment on the Bill has resulted in less coverage for children’s rights than we hoped to achieve, the Act does mark a significant advancement of children’s rights in Scotland and the UK as we become the first devolved administration to incorporate the UNCRC requirements into law. We believe that the Act provides a strong legal foundation for ensuring that children’s rights in Scotland can be protected, respected and fulfilled.

As part of the implementation of the provisions in the UNCRC Act, we will also publish, and keep under review, a Children’s Rights Scheme (CRS). This will set out on a regular basis how we will comply with the duties on Scottish Ministers within the Bill as well as secure better or further effect of the rights of the child.

Incorporation of the UNCRC forms part of our wider commitment to human rights. This includes our commitment to bring forward a landmark Human Rights Bill before the end of the 2023-24 parliamentary year. Within the limits of devolved competence, the Bill will seek to incorporate into Scots law the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), alongside three other international human rights treaties for the protection of women, disabled people, and people experiencing racism. The Bill will also seek to include and recognise the right to a healthy environment.

The UNCRC Act also sits within the wider context of our policy prospectus – Equality, Opportunity, Community: New Leadership - A Fresh Start , published in April 2023. In launching the prospectus, the First Minister committed to embedding equality, inclusion, and human rights into everything that we do. This applies across all three of the key missions which we aim to achieve over the remainder of the current parliament:

  • Equality: Tackling poverty, especially child poverty, and protecting people from harm
  • Opportunity: A fair, green and growing economy
  • Community: Prioritising our public services

This Initial Response to the Concluding Observations includes actions relevant to all three missions.

I would like to thank all of those in our public bodies, civil society, parents, and carers and, crucially, children and young people themselves, for their support in taking forward the actions within this Initial Response to the Concluding Observations and in ensuring that children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. This is an exciting time for children’s human rights in Scotland and I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead as we consider our next steps in taking forward the UN Committee’s recommendations as these relate to Scotland’s children and young people.

Natalie Don MSP

Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

Back to top