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

4. Violence Against Children

4.1 Use of Electrical Discharge Weapons and Spit Hoods

No: 30a(i)

UN Concluding Observation

Take legislative measures to explicitly prohibit, without exception, the use of: (i) harmful devices including spit hoods, tasers, plastic bullets, attenuating energy projectiles and other electrical discharge weapons against children.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.10 – Use of Electrical Discharge Weapons

Scottish Government Position

The legal authority on the use of Taser is reserved to Westminster and the decision to deploy it is an operational matter for the Chief Constable of Police Scotland. Police Scotland fully complies with the College of Policing’s Code of Practice for Armed Policing and Police use of Less Lethal Weapons and the Authorised Professional Practice for Armed Policing. Police Scotland has no specific policy on the use of Taser involving children. Any use of Taser must meet Police Scotland’s criteria for the use of force in that it must be proportionate, legal, accountable, absolutely necessary, and ethical.

Police Scotland set-up a National Taser Advisory Group, which met for the first time in February 2022. It contains a number of groups representing areas of the community such as disability, mental health, children’s rights, and human rights. The key function of the Group is to act as a critical friend to advise on the impact Taser may have on their areas and how that might be mitigated.

Prior to June 2018, only authorised firearms officers were equipped with Taser. In response to an increase in assaults on officers, the decision was taken to introduce Specially Trained Officers (STOs) in the use of Taser. There are 1794 STOs, around 10.8% of total police numbers, trained in the use of these devices, although not all will be on duty at the same time. These officers have undergone rigorous training, including scenarios linked to vulnerable people and protected characteristic groups. A number of factors are highlighted in the training which may influence the operational use of Taser; these include children and vulnerable people.

The use of Taser is subject to rigorous monitoring and review with every discharge referred to the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) who may decide to carry out an independent investigation into the incident. Police Scotland is also subject to scrutiny by the Policing Performance Committee of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and is accountable through the SPA and Scottish Ministers to the Scottish Parliament.

Use of Spit Hoods

Police Scotland are not prescriptive about where, when and on whom spit hoods should be used. Spit hoods are applied on the discretion of the officers involved and only in circumstances where the actions of the subject are such that they represent a significant risk to the safety of the officer. All officers undertake detailed training on the use of spit hoods before they are authorised to use the equipment. Officers must be able to justify their actions by demonstrating that the use of the spit hood was reasonable, proportionate (in the circumstances) and absolutely necessary (to achieve a lawful objective).

Spit hoods are used infrequently by Police Scotland and are subject to robust recording measures through the custody system. Police Scotland will continue to ensure that the use of spit hoods is closely monitored and that there is appropriate guidance on the need for proportionality and necessity.

Next Steps

  • The Scottish Government currently has no plans to review the use of Taser by Police Scotland. Any recommendations made following an investigation by PIRC into incidents involving Taser will be carefully considered.
  • Police Scotland will continue to ensure that the use of spit hoods is closely monitored and that there is appropriate guidance on the need for proportionality and necessity.

4.2 Use of Restraint

No: 30 a(iii)

Concluding Observation

Take legislative measures to explicitly prohibit, without exception, the use of solitary confinement, isolation, seclusion and restraint as disciplinary measures in schools and alternative care and health settings;

No: 30b

Concluding Observation

Develop statutory guidance on the use of restraint on children to ensure it is used only as a measure of last resort and exclusively to prevent harm to the child or others, and monitor its implementation

No: 30c

Concluding Observation

Investigate all cases of abuse and maltreatment of children in alternative care and health settings, particularly among children with disabilities, adequately sanction perpetrators and provide reparation to victims.

No: 47j

Concluding Observation

Explicitly prohibit the use of restraint and seclusion in educational settings and adopt a child rights-based approach to addressing violence or other disturbances in schools, including by prohibiting the presence of police in schools and providing regular training for teachers on relevant guidance for addressing such disturbances in a child-sensitive manner.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.11 – Use of Restraint
  • Section 9.10 – Secure Care Accommodation

Progress since November 2022

As discussed at section 5.11 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022), guidance[7] and training are in place for staff in education, custody, mental health and care settings with reference to controlling and limiting the use of restraint. Any use of restraint must be carried out with regard to the welfare of the child. The use of restraint should always be a last resort in exceptional circumstances when it is the only practicable means of securing the welfare or safety of the child or another person.


The Scottish Government agreed with the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and the Equality and Human Rights Commission that non-statutory guidance should be developed as a first step to improve practice in this area. This has been developed carefully, over time, with extensive input from over 30 working group members and partners including the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, young people, parents, staff, local government, and Enable Scotland.

We have concluded a public consultation on draft guidance which focuses on the rights of the child and makes clear that restraint and seclusion must only ever be used as a last resort to avert an immediate risk of significant harm. We are carefully considering all feedback received, including calls for further legislation in this area.

Strategies and programmes which schools can and do use to improve relationships and behaviour in schools, including the use of Campus Officers, are discussed at section 4.3. Measures to tackle bullying in schools are discussed at section 7.4.

Residential Childcare

The Scottish Government is committed to Keeping The Promise and to working with key partners in the children’s residential childcare sector to ensure that, together, we implement its aspirations. The use of restraint should always be a last resort in exceptional circumstances when it is the only practicable means of securing the welfare or safety of the child or another person. We consider that a blended framework of regulation, guidance, practice support and precise reporting is likely to best serve Scotland’s children. The use of restraint in residential and secure care is discussed further at section 5.11 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022).

Scottish Prison Service

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is committed to the principle of restraint and seclusion being a last resort, utilised when there is a significant risk to the person or others and all alternative strategies have been unsuccessful. For the SPS, the primary legislative framework is the Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011, particularly Rule 91, which describes when force can be used against a person in our care. Priority is given towards proactive approaches in which the needs of distressed individuals are identified and met as far as practical, with a view to reducing the need for restraint to take place.

Mental Health Law

The Scottish Government is currently considering recommendations from the Scottish Mental Health Law Review. This includes how we can update and modernise our mental health and capacity legislation to enhance protection of people’s rights. Alongside efforts to strengthen the law, the programme will drive action across mental health services to improve how we can further put human rights into practice. Part of this programme of work will consider specific recommendations to reduce the use of coercive practices, including restraint and seclusion over time within mental health settings.

Investigation of Cases of Abuse and Maltreatment of Children

The investigation of cases of abuse and maltreatment of children in alternative care settings, and the sanctioning of perpetrators, is a matter for the Care Inspectorate as the responsible inspection agency, Child Protection, Police Scotland, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Next Steps


  • A consultation analysis report on the draft restraint and seclusion guidance will be published in 2024. Publication of the guidance will follow shortly thereafter.

Residential Childcare

  • The Scottish Government is committed to working with partners to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the use of restraint in respect of children in care. Not only are we exploring definitions of restraint, in order to understand whether existing supports and tools for the residential care workforce remain fit for purpose, we are also seeking to build-up a national picture of learning. This is in order to understand developing and innovative local approaches and identify the key values, principles and enabling environments that have been required to successfully embed trauma-informed care approaches which have eradicated the need for the use of restraint.

Scottish Prison Service

  • The SPS is currently implementing a new restraint framework, based around embedding a human rights-based approach into practice, addressing the rights of all involved within an incident. A primary part of this is the pilot study of a new physical intervention curriculum, alongside dedicated Violence and Restraint Reduction Managers and data driven strategies to proactively manage distressed individuals in custody. A pilot was initiated in April 2023, with a decision to widen the scope of the pilot in early 2024. Development of the curriculum has taken account of the views of both operational staff and people in our care.

Mental Health Law

  • The Scottish Government is currently establishing a new Reform Programme to update legislation and improve how human rights are embedded in practice across mental health services, including a priority focus on reducing coercion. An initial delivery plan setting out initial actions for implementation will be published in early 2024.

4.3 Equal Protection from Assault

No: 31a

UN Concluding Observation

Explicitly prohibit, as a matter of priority, corporal punishment in all settings, including in the home, throughout the State party.

No: 31b

UN Concluding Observation

Monitor the implementation and impact of legislation prohibiting corporal punishment, including in Scotland, with a view to informing measures aimed at promoting attitudinal change concerning corporal punishment in all settings.

No: 31c

UN Concluding Observation

Strengthen awareness-raising campaigns for parents, teachers and other professionals working with and for children, to promote positive, non-violent and participatory forms of child-rearing.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.1 – Equal Protection from Assault

Progress since November 2022

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 (2019 Act) abolished the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” to help bring an end to all forms of physical punishment of children by parents and others caring for or in charge of children in Scotland.

The Scottish Government continues to promote positive parenting via the Parent Club website. Parent Club offers parents and carers tips and advice for all the challenges that family life throws up, from experts and parents and carers who have been there before. The website also hosts our Family Support Directory, which brings together all the helpful organisations, benefits and information that support parents and carers, no matter what their situation or stage their child is at.

In 2012, the Scottish Government published its National Parenting Strategy, which aimed to strengthen the support on offer to parents and make it easier for them to access this support.

The Scottish Government knows that supporting parents is key to improving outcomes for children and young people. We therefore want to build the knowledge, skills, and confidence of parents, so they can be and do the best they can for their children. We want to support parents and carers to be able to lay strong foundations for the loving, nurturing relationships that we know are integral to children’s emotional, physical, socio-economic, and educational wellbeing, without the use of physical punishment. Evidence highlights that strong parent - child relationships with both parents and a low conflict environment are important to children’s outcomes. To support parents and carers in reducing conflict, we have provided core funding to third sector organisations such as Relationships Scotland, The Spark, Shared Parenting Scotland, Fathers Network Scotland, The Cyrenian’s Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution and Mellow Parenting.

Corporal punishment is prohibited in Scotland’s schools, by virtue of Section 16(1) of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000.

The use of Campus Officers is part of a range of strategies and programmes which schools can and do use to improve relationships and behaviour. These include good behaviour management and behaviour support teams; solution orientated approaches and restorative approaches; nurture approaches and programmes to help develop social, emotional, and behavioural skills. Campus officers contribute to a consistent and positive interaction between young people, the police, and the community. This helps promote the wellbeing of young people within the community. The promotion of positive relationships and behaviour in schools is discussed at section 5.1 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022).

Next Steps

  • The Scottish Government plans to organise focus groups in 2024 to seek views on the implementation of the 2019 Act. We will also update some of the awareness-raising material produced on the 2019 Act by summer 2024.
  • We will continue to regularly review the information contained within Parent Club and the Family Directory to ensure that these resources remain current and continue to meet the needs of parents and carers.
  • We are reviewing our National Parenting Strategy to inform a refreshed National Parenting Pathway in 2024-25.

4.4 Abuse, Neglect and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

No: 33a

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure that child protection systems take a child rights-based approach in preventing and addressing cases of abuse and neglect, including psychological violence; that social services and other mechanisms for identifying and supporting children at risk of violence as well as child victims of violence are adequately resourced; and that child victims are fully recognized as victims and have access to community-based, trauma care and child-sensitive support services;

No: 33c

UN Concluding Observation

Promptly and effectively investigate and intervene in all cases of violence against children, including domestic violence, sexual exploitation and abuse of children, in and outside the home, in the digital environment, in religious and educational institutions and in alternative care settings, and ensure expert support to child victims and that perpetrators are brought to justice;

No: 33d

UN Concluding Observation

Strengthen measures aimed at tackling violence against children, including by implementing the recommendations of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and other relevant inquiries and investigations conducted by independent bodies.

No: 33e

UN Concluding Observation

Develop measures aimed at preventing violence against children in alternative care, children with disabilities, asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children and children belonging to minority groups.

No: 33i

UN Concluding Observation

Strengthen efforts to train professionals working with and for children, including social workers, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary, to identify and effectively respond to cases of violence, including sexual exploitation.

No: 33k

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure the systematic collection and analysis of data on child protection issues and violence against children to inform the implementation of national strategies on violence and child sexual abuse, including by: (i) creating a national database for missing children; (ii) collecting data on cases that have been reported, investigated and prosecuted; and (iii) ensuring that data on the sexual exploitation and abuse of 16- and 17-year-old children is disaggregated as children.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.2 – Child Protection
  • Section 5.3 – Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Section 5.6 – Gender-based Violence

Progress since November 2022

Child Protection

The revised non-statutory National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 describes the responsibilities and expectations of everyone who works with children, young people and their families in Scotland. The guidance incorporates learning from child protection cases and supports improved cross-agency working and outcomes for children at risk. The Scottish approach to child protection is based upon the protection of children’s rights. The principles of the UNCRC are therefore reflected in the National Guidance, alongside a trauma-informed approach. The Scottish Government published a further update of the Guidance in August 2023 to ensure that this includes significant legislative, policy and practice changes that have occurred since September 2021 and learning from this period of implementation.

The Guidance also includes a section on learning and development. This makes clear that single- and multi-agency training should be available to promote the knowledge, skills and values needed to support effective child protection work. Local Child Protection Committees are responsible for overseeing training needs within their areas and should have mechanisms in place for the delivery and evaluation of local training.

Following publication of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021, a National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group was established for a period of two years to provide strategic oversight and offer support to local areas. The final meeting of the Group took place in September 2023.

The Scottish Government is also committed to implementation of the Barnahus model, known in Scotland as Bairns’ Hoose. This will ensure that all children in Scotland under the age of 18, who have been victims or witnesses to abuse or significant harm, have access to trauma-informed recovery, support, and justice, see section 4.5. The provision of social workers is discussed at section 5.3 of this report.

Violence Against Women and Girls

A refreshed Equally Safe Strategy jointly owned by Scottish Government and COSLA for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls was published on 7 December 2023. Stakeholder engagement to inform the refresh, including with children and young people organisations, was undertaken. The refreshed Strategy continues to recognise the impact of gender-based violence and abuse on children. The Equally Safe Outcomes Framework/Logic Model, which measures progress made, was also part of the work to refresh the Strategy.

The Scottish Government is investing significant levels of funding to support our efforts to combat violence against women and girls. Our Delivering Equally Safe (DES) Fund provides £19 million per annum, supporting 121 projects from 112 organisations that focus on early intervention, prevention, and support services. Through the DES Fund, the Scottish Government supports 83 projects which undertake work with children and young people as part of their funding. Programmes currently being taken forward to raise awareness and promote understanding of gender-based violence amongst young people, include Equally Safe at School and the Rape Crisis Scotland National Sexual Violence Prevention Programme.

Our Victim Centred Approach Fund (VCAF) will provide £48 million to 23 organisations across Scotland over the period of 2022-2025. The VCAF includes £18.5 million for specialist advocacy support for survivors of gender-based violence. Victim Support Scotland and organisations supporting women and girls, trafficking victims and people from ethnic minorities are also benefitting from the Fund.

The Scottish Government aims to ensure that the funding provided works most effectively to improve outcomes for those using services. An Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services, chaired by Lesley Irving, reported its findings in June 2023. We are considering the report and its recommendations, along with COSLA, local authority partners and wider stakeholders, to ensure a stable footing for funding in the future is developed.

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that covers not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. The Act reflects the fact that children are harmed by domestic abuse by providing for a statutory aggravation in relation to behaviour directed at, or likely to adversely affect, a child.

The Scottish Government is continuing to fund programmes to support victim-survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of violence and abuse, including specialist services for children. This includes approximately £2 million from October 2021 to March 2025 for organisations and joint organisation partnerships to deliver the Safe and Together model and training across 11 local authority areas. Safe and Together is a positive approach to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children living with domestic abuse. We have also invested approximately £1 million from October 2021 to March 2025 towards Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery (CEDAR) projects, which is a group work model for children who have experienced domestic abuse.

In December 2022, the Scottish Government established a Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce to lead on the development of Scotland’s first national multi-agency Domestic Homicide Review model. Domestic Homicide Reviews aim to learn from the circumstances of domestic abuse related homicides and identify areas for improvement to prevent further deaths. The Taskforce comprises of members from across justice, health, local government, social work, third sector and academia. A model Development Subgroup was established in September 2023 to underpin the work of the Taskforce and develop the detail of the model. The Taskforce published a package of evidence in 2023 which included a review of international domestic homicide review models.

Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation and Online Safety

The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland published in 2021 and updated in 2023, provides information on child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation to support local areas in Scotland in developing effective, evidence-based responses. The guidance also provides detailed advice for all practitioners who support victims of sexual exploitation. This action is further strengthened by The Promise foundations, the UNCRC Act and Scotland’s GIRFEC approach. We are also continuing our funding commitments to strengthen early intervention and prevention to better protect children and young people in Scotland from abuse and neglect.

Protecting children online is a key priority for the Scottish Government. This includes both child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, and our approach to tackling these harms in Scotland reflects the interlinked nature of these issues. We are continuing to work with our partners through the Police Scotland Multi-Agency Preventing Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Group to inform our approach to enforcement to keep children safe online.

The Scottish Government ran a national public awareness campaign in February and March 2022 to support parents and carers to help keep their children safer online. This linked to the Scottish Government’s Parent Club website and newly created Online Safety Hub and Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Hub. A survey and evaluation of the campaign demonstrated its positive impact on behaviour.[8] We re-ran this campaign in February 2023, reinforcing this important messaging. Once again, the campaign performed well, reaching over 900,000 people during the three weeks that it ran. In October 2023, we launched resources for parents and carers of younger children on the Parent Club website. These provide tips on how to help younger children to stay safe online as well as signposting to age-appropriate online resources for children.

The UK Government’s Online Safety Act 2023 establishes a new regulatory regime aimed at ensuring that platforms in scope have systems and processes in place to deal with illegal and harmful content and their associated risk, particularly to children and young people. The Online Safety Act 2023 is discussed at section 3.7.

Child Protection – Data Sources

A national dataset is published on an annual basis to support the publication of the Scottish Government’s annual children’s social work statistics. The data collection specification has been revised to ensure alignment with the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021.

The Scottish Government funded CELCIS to lead on the development of a minimum dataset for Child Protection Committees and has been supporting Child Protection Committees to adopt it. The minimum dataset is a ‘package’ of data collation, presentation, analysis, reporting, and scrutiny supports. The minimum dataset delivers robust data sets to support child protection improvement, local planning, and service development, and expanded analytical capacity. Version 2 of the minimum dataset, which was launched in June 2021, aligns with the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021).

All missing children reported in Scotland are recorded on Police Scotland’s Missing Persons Application. Information gathered from a missing episode and return discussion with the child can be assessed and analysed by missing person divisional coordinators. Relevant information can be shared with partners to protect and safeguard a vulnerable child or those at risk of harm.

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) applied to arrangements in England and Wales. However, we are reviewing the recommendations made in its final report for their relevance to the Scottish context and system. We are also engaging with other relevant inquiries – for example, we are working closely with the Scottish Football Association on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Independent Review of Child Sexual Abuse in Scottish Football. The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is ongoing.

Next Steps

  • Although the National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group met for the final time in September 2023, several pieces of work will continue beyond this date. This includes a monitoring and evaluation workstream, which will provide an analysis on how successful implementation of the Guidance has been to inform any next steps. The analysis is expected to be completed in early 2024.
  • A refresh of the Equally Safe Strategy was published in December 2023. A corresponding delivery plan to support implementation of the Strategy will be published in spring 2024.
  • We will continue to review and update the online safety messaging on the Scottish Government’s Parent Club website.
  • We will continue to work with partners to consider and improve local and national data and evidence around child abuse in Scotland.
  • We will review the recommendations made by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry as and when these are forthcoming.

4.5 Bairns’ Hoose and Vulnerable Witnesses

No: 33f

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure that all children who are victims or witnesses of violence have prompt access to child-sensitive, multisectoral and comprehensive interventions, services and support, including forensic interviews and psychological therapy, with the aim of preventing the secondary victimization of those children, and allocate sufficient resources for the implementation and expansion of the barnahus and similar models.

No: 33g

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure a child rights and trauma care-based approach in the provision of support services for victims, including the Bairns’ Hoose standards in Scotland, and that such services and support are also available for, and address the specific needs of, all victims of violence.

No: 33h

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure that all child victims of violence, including sexual abuse, are allowed as child witnesses to provide video recorded evidence for testimony and cross-examination during the pre-trial stage as a default process in judicial procedures under Sections 21 and 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, and that they have access to appropriate therapy without delay.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.5 – Vulnerable Witnesses

Progress since November 2022

Bairns’ Hoose

The Bairns’ Hoose is a transformational, whole-system approach to delivering child protection, justice, and health support and services to child victims and witnesses of abuse and harm. Our vision for Bairns’ Hoose is that all children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses of abuse or violence, as well as children under the age of criminal responsibility, whose behaviour has caused significant harm or abuse, will have access to trauma-informed recovery, support, and justice. As set out in our Refreshed Vision, Values and Approach (June 2023), the Scottish approach to Barnahus is based on the key principles that Bairns’ Hoose is there to uphold children’s rights and that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them.

The Bairns’ Hoose will bring together services in a ‘four rooms’ approach with child protection, health, justice, and recovery services available in one setting. A key aim of the model is to reduce the number of times children have to recount their experiences. Scotland-specific Bairns' Hoose Standards, developed in conjunction with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Care Inspectorate, were published in May 2023. The Standards are based on the European Barnahus PROMISE Quality Standards which reflect best practice from the Nordic countries. The Standards have been informed by the views of children and young people with lived experience of child protection and the justice system.

We have introduced a three-phased approach to Bairns’ Hoose, beginning with the Pathfinder phase from 2023-25, which will allow for the testing of the national Bairns’ Hoose Standards; followed by a pilot phase before national roll-out. The Pathfinder phase is described in our Bairns’ Hoose – Project Plan: Progress Report and Pathfinder Delivery Plan, which was published in June 2023.

Six Pathfinder partnerships, comprising of collaborations across Health, Social Work and Police with demonstratable links with third sector and education partners, were announced in October 2023. The participation and engagement of children and young people was an essential criterion for Pathfinder applicants, to ensure that the voice of the child is considered in the design and development of Bairns’ Hoose and its services.

We invested approximately £3.5 million to support the Pathfinder phase in 2023-24, with approximately £6 million expected to be available in 2024-25.

The Scottish Government is also providing grant funding to the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) to carry out a scoping project for therapeutic and recovery services. A project report is expected to be published by March 2024.

Vulnerable Witnesses

Bairns’ Hoose will build on the momentum of the new Scottish Child Interview Model (SCIM) for Joint Investigative Interviews, which will be seen as part of the ‘justice room’ of the Bairns’ Hoose. The SCIM delivers an interview process that secures the child’s best evidence at the earliest opportunity and minimises the risk of further re-traumatisation. This ground-breaking approach to interviews for vulnerable child victims and witnesses is currently being rolled-out across Scotland, supported by £2 million of Scottish Government funding in 2021-24, with further commitment of £750k in 2024-25 to support SCIM partners to develop sustainable, long-term structures.

The Scottish Government is also progressing the phased implementation of the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence)(Scotland) Act 2019 (“the 2019 Act”), which establishes a legislative presumption that the evidence of child and adult vulnerable witnesses in cases which involve specific offences will be pre-recorded ahead of trial except in certain circumstances which include where doing so would give rise to a significant risk of prejudice to the fairness of proceedings.

Our phased approach involves rolling the presumption out to different cohorts of vulnerable witnesses in stages based on an Implementation Plan that has been agreed with justice partners. This Plan prioritises roll-out of the presumption to child complainers and witnesses. To date, the presumption has been introduced for children giving evidence in the High Court with work underway to extend the presumption to child complainers and witnesses giving evidence in sheriff and jury trials.

Next Steps

Bairns’ Hoose

  • The Scottish Government will publish a Pathfinder findings report with a set of conclusions to act as a baseline for the Pilot phase in 2025.
  • Also in 2025, we will have an initial blueprint for the Bairns’ Hoose model in Scotland and will develop a Delivery Plan for the Pilot Programme.

Vulnerable Witnesses

  • The Scottish Government has provided grant funding to the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) to evaluate the impact of the Scottish Child Interview Model on the experiences and outcomes for children and young people. The evaluation will also look at the impact this new form of Joint Investigative Interview has had on pre-recorded evidence being used as evidence-in-chief when cases go to court.
  • It is expected that the Scottish Child Interview Model will be introduced to every area of Scotland by end of 2024.

4.6 Violence Prevention

No: 34a (i) – (iv)

UN Concluding Observation

Prevent and combat gang-related violence and knife crime, and protect children from such violence, including by: (i) addressing the social factors and root causes of gang-related violence and knife crime among adolescents; (ii) establishing child-sensitive early warning mechanisms for children who seek protection against violence of gangs; (iii) adopting programmes that provide children in gangs with assistance and protection to leave gangs and be reintegrated into society; and (iv) putting an end to the recruitment of children as informants for law enforcement and intelligence bodies;

No: 34b

UN Concluding Observation

Strengthen measures to protect children from intimidation, racist attacks and other forms of violence committed by non-State actors, and from recruitment by such actors into violent activities.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.4 – Online Safety
  • Section 5.9 – Use of Children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources
  • Section 9.3 – Reducing Violence and Offending Behaviour

Progress since November 2022

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that robust child protection measures are in place across Scotland and continue to be followed at all times. The revised National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021), which was further updated in August 2023, sets out processes to be followed if any child is at risk of harm. Child protection processes are discussed further at section 4.4 of the report.

The Scottish Government published the first ever Violence Prevention Framework for Scotland in May 2023. The Framework draws on the evidence and research available on violence and what works to prevent it. The Framework includes priority actions which are being taken forward in partnership with Scottish Government grant funded stakeholder organisations, including the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, to help build safer communities.

The Framework supports a ‘public health’ preventative approach, which focuses on prevention, early and targeted intervention and partnership working to help achieve the overarching aims to prevent violence occurring in the first instance; and to reduce the harm as and when it does occur.

Children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS)

Consideration is being given to updating the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Code of Practice. Additional safeguards (compared to adults) exist currently in relation to the regulatory framework for the authorisation of juvenile covert human intelligence sources. These will be reinforced in more detail in the revised Code of Practice. The authorisation and subsequent management of all CHIS, including juveniles, is overseen by the independent, judicially-led Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office.

Next Steps

Violence Prevention Framework

  • The Scottish Government is funding violence reduction partner organisations, including the work of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and YouthLink Scotland’s No Knives, Better Lives programme, with over £2 million during 2023-24, to provide prevention and targeted interventions to build resilience and empower individuals and communities to live free from violence. Funded organisations are taking forward activity within the context of the Violence Prevention Framework and are contributing to the delivery of the Framework’s initial 14 priority actions.
  • During 2023, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit is leading work in partnership with YouthLink Scotland, Police Scotland and other partners, to deliver possible solutions specifically aimed at targeting weapon carrying amongst some young people, and older people with histories of violence. Progress towards this will be updated in the Violence Prevention Framework Annual Report, the first of which is expected to be published in autumn 2024.
  • As well as the Violence Prevention Framework Annual Report, the Scottish Government is developing a measurement framework, which will assess progress made in implementing the actions in the Violence Prevention Framework.

4.7 Harmful Practices

No: 35a

UN Concluding Observation

Develop national strategies aimed at eliminating and preventing harmful practices affecting children, including child marriage, female genital mutilation and violence committed in the name of so-called honour, and ensure that it includes effective measures for raising public awareness, training relevant professional groups, identifying victims and addressing data gaps and low rates of reporting and prosecution.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.7 – Honour-based Violence

Progress since November 2022

So-called “honour-based violence” covers a range of behaviours including Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Honour-based violence is directly referenced in the Equally Safe Strategy, in recognition that these practices abuse the human rights of women and girls and are a form of gender-based violence. The Equally Safe Strategy was refreshed at the end of 2023. The Strategy continues to recognise the impact of gender-based violence and abuse on all children, see section 4.4.

The Scottish Government is committed to tackling honour-based violence and the specific concerns of minority ethnic women in relation to violence against women and girls. To support this work, we have established a network comprising of key minority ethnic women stakeholders who will help shape our approach. We have engaged with the network as part of our refresh of the Equally Safe Strategy. The network will also inform our work in relation to honour-based abuse, FGM and forced marriage.

The Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance)(Scotland) Act 2020 (2020 Act) seeks to strengthen the existing legislative framework for protecting women and girls from FGM through FGM Protection Orders and statutory guidance. We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure effective implementation of the 2020 Act.

The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction)(Scotland) Act 2011 (2011 Act) provides civil remedies for those at risk of forced marriage, and those who have already been forced into marriage. The Scottish Government is currently developing refreshed statutory guidance on Forced Marriage. Consultation has taken place with a wide range of stakeholders, including third sector specialists working with minority ethnic women and local government leadership groups, to ensure its suitability for purpose.

To date, there have been no prosecutions under the 2011 Act. From 2017-18 to 2021‑22, there have been 11 Forced Marriage Protection Orders registrations and six Forced Marriage Protection Orders granted at the Sheriff Courts.

Age of Marriage

The age of marriage in Scotland is discussed at section 1.16.


Through our Delivering Equally Safe Fund, the Scottish Government provides funding to a number of organisations for projects and services related to forced marriage, FGM, honour-based abuse and children who have experienced violence against women. These include AMINA –The Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, Saheliya, Shakti Women’s Aid and Hemat Gryffe. We also fund Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, run by Scottish Women’s Aid, which supports those with experience of, or at risk of, forced marriage.

Next Steps

  • We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of the FGM (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Act 2020.
  • The Scottish Government will publish refreshed Forced Marriage statutory guidance.
  • Through our Delivering Equally Safe Fund, we are continuing to fund projects relating to forced marriage, FGM and honour-based abuse.

4.8 Ending Conversion Practices

No: 35b

UN Concluding Observation

Prohibit the promotion, facilitation and delivery of so-called “conversion therapies” aimed at changing the sexual orientation and gender identity of children, in line with its commitment made in 2018, with particular attention paid to the vulnerabilities of children who may be subject to such harm.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 3.2 – Equalities and Inclusion in Relation to Particular Groups

Progress since November 2022

The Scottish Government remains committed to introducing a Bill on ending conversion practices, including both sexual orientation and gender identity. Our Ending Conversion Practices in Scotland: Consultation was published on 9 January 2024, and will run until 2 April 2024.

The Scottish Government’s proposals draw on the reports and recommendations of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee and the Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices (EAG) established by the Scottish Government, as well as legislation passed or underway in other countries, research, stakeholder engagement and evidence from those with personal experience of conversion practices. The Scottish Government is also considering the non-legislative steps it can take to end conversion practices and support those who have experienced them, see section 2.1.

We have provided £108,925 to LGBT Health and Wellbeing for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2024 to fund the delivery of a helpline service which provides support for victims and survivors of conversion practices.

Next Steps

  • We will continue to engage with stakeholders throughout the consultation period.
  • Consultation responses will be analysed independently, and we will carefully consider this analysis in relation to our legislative proposals for ending conversion practices.
  • We are also considering the non-legislative steps that we can take to end conversion practices and support those who have experienced them.

4.9 Support for Intersex Children and Young People

No: 35d

UN Concluding Observation

Legally prohibit non-urgent and non-essential (including feminizing or masculinizing) medical or surgical treatment of intersex children before they are of sufficient age or maturity to make their own decisions; ensure that such incidents are investigated and provide redress and psychosocial support to victims; and establish a mechanism to independently monitor implementation of the legal prohibition.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 5.8 – Intersex Children and Young People

Scottish Government Position

The Scottish Government wants to ensure that people and their families who are living with differences in sex development conditions, identify as intersex or have a variation in sex characteristics and require medical care or support through NHS Scotland, can access the best possible care. A holistic approach is taken to deliver positive health, care, and wellbeing outcomes.

Surgery within NHS Scotland should only be undertaken where medically necessary, for example, where there is an obstruction, or the variation of sex development has resulted in a high cancer risk. NHS Scotland will not perform any surgery or treatment without prior consent from the patient or someone with parental responsibility. The views of the child (or the parents, if the child is too young to express a view) remain a crucial part of the final decision-making process about their treatment or surgery, if medically necessary.


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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