Universal Periodic Review 2022: Scottish Government Position Statement

This position statement sets out the action we've taken in devolved areas since 2017 to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of everyone in Scotland.

5. Children’s Rights

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering our vision of a Scotland where children are recognised as individuals in their own right – where policy, law and decision-making take account of children’s rights, and where all children have a voice and are empowered to be human rights defenders. The Scottish Government is committed to safe, inclusive and meaningful engagement with children and young people and to ensuring that their views are at the heart of the decisions that affect them.

The Scottish Government is also committed to upholding its obligations under the UNCRC. In 2022, the Scottish Government contributed to the UK’s reporting on its compliance with the UNCRC and will soon publish a standalone position statement to set out this progress in more detail. The Scottish Government also remains committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC subject to the limits of devolved competence and to bringing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration as soon as practicable (see Section 1(B)). In the meantime, the majority of our work to implement the UNCRC can proceed and is continuing.

A) Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014[143] places specific duties on Scottish Ministers aimed at securing better or further effect in Scotland of the UNCRC requirements as defined by the Act. These include the consideration and delivery of appropriate action, listening to the views of children, and promoting public awareness and understanding of children’s rights, including amongst children.

The Act requires Scottish Ministers to report to the Scottish Parliament every three years on their progress in implementing their duties and their plans for the subsequent three-year period. In December 2018, Ministers laid the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Report 2015-2018[144] before the Scottish Parliament, setting out the actions the Scottish Government had taken to promote children’s rights from 2015 until 2018. A three-year action plan, the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2018-2021[145], was also published at this time. The second three-year progress report[146] and the 2021-2024 action plan[147] were both laid before Parliament in November 2021.

Key policies and legislation set out in the 2018-21 progress report include:

  • introducing the Baby Box, ensuring that every family with a new-born baby has access to essential items needed in the first six months of a child’s life[148] – over 200,000 Baby Boxes have been distributed to families across Scotland since the introduction of the scheme in 2017[149];
  • delivering the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017[150] which sets in statute the ambition to tackle child poverty, underpinned by ambitious income-based targets to be met by 2030 – concrete action to tackle and reduce child poverty has subsequently been set out within the Best Start, Bright Futures: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-2026[151];
  • investing over £33 million since 2017 to fund access to free period products across a range of settings including schools, colleges and universities, wider public spaces and targeted access through community groups for those on low incomes – access to free period products for anyone who needs them is protected in law by the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021[152] which came fully into force in August 2022;
  • implementing the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019[153] which provides children with the same legal protection from assault as adults;
  • delivering the Children (Scotland) Act 2020[154] which will improve the experiences of children and young people in child-contact and residence cases;
  • provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill[155] which seek to incorporate the UNCRC and the first and second Optional Protocols directly into Scots law subject to the limits of devolved competence (see Section 1(B));
  • introducing the new Scottish Child Payment, worth £80 every four weeks, for parents of eligible children;
  • expanding the provision of free school lunches during term time to include primary 5 pupils in addition to children in primaries 1 to 4;
  • making significant investment in early learning and childcare to expand the entitlement of funded hours to all eligible children from up to 600 hours a year to up to 1140 hours a year from August 2021.

Since April 2017, sections 2 and 3 of the Act also place a duty on a wide range of public authorities, including local authorities and health boards, to report every three years on the steps they have taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC requirements within their areas of responsibility. The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020[156] permitted those public authorities to delay reporting if doing so would hinder their ability to respond to the pandemic. These provisions expired in September 2022, and reports continue to be due as soon as reasonably practicable.

B) Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Financial Memorandum to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill[157] set out a high-level plan for a three-year implementation programme to ensure that the Bill’s duties are fulfilled, with children’s rights being embedded in decision-making at all levels in public services[158]. The three strands of that high-level plan have since been expanded into four strands which were set out in the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2021-2024[159]. These four strands cover:

  • ensuring that the Scottish Government is a leader and role model to others in upholding children’s rights, as well as ensuring all Scottish Government policy and legislation is compliant with the UNCRC as incorporated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill;
  • empowering children and young people to claim their rights by creating and amplifying systems that enable children and young people to be empowered human rights defenders, by continuing to drive forward a rights-based approach to participation and ensuring we listen to, consider, and respond to representative voices of children and young people, and particularly those who are seldom heard;
  • embedding children’s rights in public services by supporting a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland;
  • children’s rights resolution, focusing on working to provide targeted support to those areas which we know can make a real difference in furthering children’s rights and allowing children to access their rights when they are not being met.

During the period of 2021 to 2024, the Scottish Government is continuing to take forward its three year implementation programme to deliver a fundamental shift in the way children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland. The UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board (“SIB”) was first convened in July 2021 to provide oversight and leadership of the implementation programme and includes representation from leaders in the children’s rights sector and public authorities[160]. The SIB is currently meeting monthly to provide strategic vision, oversee delivery of the programme, and monitor progress.

To support the meaningful and inclusive participation of children and young people in the SIB and the wider implementation programme, we are working to establish a consortium of organisations that have strong, trusting relationships with children and young people across Scotland. Between October 2021 and March 2022, we established an interim consortium of organisations to represent the views of children and young people as part of the SIB[161]. The interim consortium, called Rights Right Now![162], was facilitated by Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights). As a result, children and young people could provide advice and guidance to the SIB prior to the establishment of the main consortium. Rights Right Now! also contributed to the development of the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2021–2024[163].

The procurement notice for the children and young people’s main consortium coordinator was published in early February 2022. Unfortunately, no bids were awarded. The specification will be reissued in late 2022 and it is hoped the consortium will commence from April 2023 and run to March 2025. When the coordinator is in place, we will be inviting organisations to apply for membership. There will be up to 15 member places available.

C) Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment

The non-statutory CRWIA is promoted across the Scottish Government to help officials to take a rights-based approach to the development of relevant policies, legislation, services, and significant investment decisions, to ensure that children’s rights, wellbeing, and voices are at the heart of policy development[164]. CRWIAs are also supporting and informing the Scottish Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recovery process.

Following a review of the CRWIA process in November 2021, new templates and updated guidance were published[165]. We will continue to gather feedback from anyone using the templates and guidance to ensure they are continuously improved. Work to improve the CRWIA training and to develop an impact evaluation process for the CRWIA also continues.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill[166] would place a statutory duty on Ministers to prepare and publish CRWIAs for new Bills introduced by the Scottish Ministers in the Scottish Parliament and for most Scottish Statutory Instruments made by Scottish Ministers (see Section 1(B)). The Bill as passed provides that Ministers would also need to prepare and publish CRWIAs in relation to strategic decisions relating to the rights and wellbeing of children as required by, and in accordance with, arrangements which would be set out in the Children’s Rights Scheme.

D) Children’s Rights and the Budget

Children’s rights are considered as part of budget and resource allocation decisions. The Scottish Government, with the Scottish Parliament, have well-established budget-setting and scrutiny arrangements that aim to ensure that decisions about revenue and capital expenditure and income are informed by both Ministers’ statutory responsibilities and key delivery priorities and outcomes. The Scottish Government publishes an Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement[167] each year alongside its draft budget for the year ahead. These Statements examine the impact of budgetary decisions across protected characteristics. The introduction of the CRWIA further ensures that policy officials within Government take account of the rights, wellbeing and views of children and young people when considering the relevant policies and significant investment decisions (see Section 5(C)).

In April 2018, the Scottish Government introduced the Fairer Scotland Duty[168] which requires certain public authorities, when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise their functions, to have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage. This prioritisation of resources aims to provide support for the most vulnerable children in Scotland and to ensure their economic and social rights are realised progressively.

We will continue to explore the potential to spread more participatory budgeting practices and wellbeing and child rights-based approaches to budgeting, as provided for by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in General Comment 5[169] and General Comment 19[170], to advance and secure children’s rights in the budget process. This will include reviewing the lessons learned from international legal guidance, case studies and guiding documentation from the UNICEF, as well as practice from institutes focused on delivering children’s rights via the budget cycle.

E) Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003[171] established the role of the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland. The SPCB sets the terms of the Commissioner’s appointment, including the allocation of resources. The Act provides for the Commissioner to undertake investigations into how service providers have regard to the rights, interests, and views of groups of children and young people when making decisions or taking actions that affect them. Provisions in Part 2 of the Act, which were commenced in 2017, build on this by empowering the Commissioner to conduct such investigations on behalf of individual children.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill[172] as passed (see Section 1(B)) would give the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland and SHRC the power to bring or intervene in proceedings in which a person claims that a public authority has acted, or proposes to act, in breach of the UNCRC requirements as incorporated by the Bill.

F) Children’s Participation

In the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2018-2021[173], the Scottish Government committed to developing a strategic approach to mainstreaming the participation of children and young people in decision-making across Scottish society.

In March 2020, the Scottish Government published Decision-Making: Children and Young People's Participation[174] to provide best-practice guidance to support those who engage with children and young people as part of their decision-making. This guidance was developed with an expert working group with representatives from a range of third sector organisations, local authorities, health boards, and academia, all working in the field of children’s rights with a focus on participation in Scotland. A small group of young people also reviewed some of the content. The guidance sets out the nine basic requirements for the effective participation of children and young people as recommended in General Comment 12[175] of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Scottish Government remains committed to including these requirements in our strategic rights-based approach to participation, to ensure children and young people are able to participate in decision-making and influence decision-makers safely and meaningfully.

The Scottish Government holds an annual meeting of Cabinet members with children and young people. These meetings have taken place since 2017 and have enabled children and young people to raise issues that matter to them and to inform the Scottish Government’s agenda over the coming year. The issues raised by children and young people at these meetings have been wide ranging, including in relation to schools, bullying, mental health, incorporation of the UNCRC, Human Rights Defenders, and the future of Scotland’s relationship with Europe. At the end of each of the meetings, children, young people and Cabinet members have collectively agreed actions for the year ahead and published progress reports on the actions agreed[176].

The Scottish Government has also continued to fund a number of third sector organisations, including the Scottish Youth Parliament (“SYP”), the Children’s Parliament, and Young Scot, to lead on participation and engagement with children and young people through core grants and specific pieces of commissioned work. Examples of how children and young people have been able to be involved in informing and shaping decision-making, policy and action plans are discussed in detail in the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Report 2018-2021[177], including engagement on the impact of Brexit for children and young people, Scotland’s unique children’s hearings system, and the Independent Care Review.

The Scottish Government held First Minister’s Question Time Next Generation[178] sessions in September 2018 and April 2019, facilitated by YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland, to give children and young people the opportunity to put their questions directly to the First Minister. The Scottish Government also arranged for members of the SYP and Children’s Parliament to have the opportunity to engage with the Scottish Government’s Executive Team, including the Permanent Secretary and Directors General.

The Scottish Government has taken steps throughout the crisis to hear the views, concerns and lived experiences of children and young people in relation to COVID-19 and to empower them to participate in the decisions around the response to the pandemic that affect them. We have also continued to listen to representative voices of children and young people by working in collaboration with a range of stakeholders who have existing and trusting relationships with various groups of children and young people[179].

Pupil participation and learner engagement are vital aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence approach and we know that having a strong voice in shaping the life and work of their school has a positive impact on the attainment and achievement of pupils. The Scottish Government encourages the meaningful participation of children and young people in the life and work of their school. This is supported by the provision of guidance for school staff and improvement support to schools via Education Scotland[180].

The Education Recovery Youth Panel[181], established in collaboration with Young Scot and Children in Scotland, aimed to embed the voices of young people from a range of backgrounds and experiences in the decision-making around education recovery from COVID-19 between November 2020 and June 2021. We are working in partnership with a range of children’s rights experts and children and young person’s organisations to map out current engagement practice across education policy and to co-design and develop a longer-term, strategic, rights-based approach to participation.

Our approach to developing the voice of children and young people in education policy is aligned with the recommendations on learner voice and participation throughout Professor Ken Muir’s report, Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education[182], which was published alongside a response from the Scottish Government[183] in March 2022. In particular, the first recommendation highlights the particular importance of placing the learner at the centre of all decisions.

We are committed to ensuring that children and young people are front and centre in the various strands of education reform and recognise that listening to our children and young people and responding to their expectations, reality and lived experience will be crucial. If our education system can put learners at the centre, and be responsive to all needs and circumstances, then we will get it right for everyone.

G) Rights Respecting Schools

In May 2022, the Scottish Government announced 3 years of funding for UNICEF UK to offer their Rights Respecting Schools Award programme to all 2,400 state primary and secondary schools in Scotland[184]. UNICEF UK works with schools across the country to embed children’s rights in a school’s ethos, raise awareness of the UNCRC and increase understanding of children's rights.

Evidence gathered by UNICEF UK demonstrates the positive impact of the programme, which creates a culture of respect across the school community where children’s voices are heard and valued. Scotland’s curriculum seeks to embed and support children’s rights through the cross-curricular theme of Learning for Sustainability.

The Scottish Government is currently working with a sub-group of Scotland’s Curriculum and Assessment Board to review Scotland’s curriculum in relation to children’s rights. Similar work is being undertaken in relation to antiracism, including the development of the key principles of an ant-racist curriculum.

H) Scottish Attainment Challenge

The Scottish Attainment Challenge’s mission is to use education to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty with a focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap[185]. Since 2017, the Scottish Government has invested over £936 million in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, with a further £200 million to be distributed in 2022-2023, enabling schools, councils and partners to provide help for some of our most disadvantaged pupils.

Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels data shows that in the two-year period between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 the proportions of primary school pupils achieving the expected levels in literacy had increased by 3.1 percentage points, while in numeracy there had been an increase of 2.7 percentage points[186], and data from the 2021 Headteacher Survey published in June 2022 reported that 87% of head-teachers in Scotland say improvements have been made in closing the poverty-related attainment gap despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic[187].

Evidence of the progress made over the first 5 years of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, evidence of the impact of COVID-19, and extensive feedback and engagement with a broad range of partners and stakeholders has informed the next phase of the programme. With the support of £1 billion over this parliamentary term, from 2022-2023 the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge programme will see:

  • a broader recognition of children and young people’s achievements and attainment;
  • continued empowerment of school leaders through Pupil Equity Funding (“PEF”);
  • a clearer and funded strategic role for all local authorities;
  • funding for PEF and local authorities confirmed over 4 years to enable long-term planning;
  • continued support for care experienced children and young people;
  • a clear framework to support recovery and accelerate progress.

This will enable local authorities and schools to support education recovery, reduce variation, and accelerate progress in tackling the poverty-related attainment gap.

I) Additional Support For Learning

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004[188] as amended requires education authorities to identify, provide for, and review the additional support needs of their pupils. In 2019, the Scottish Government published updated guidance[189] for schools and education authorities on their duty to provide education in a mainstream school or early learning and childcare setting unless certain exceptions apply. Additional support may be required to overcome short-term and long-term needs arising from the learning environment, health or disability, family circumstances, or social and emotional factors. The Scottish Government continues to provide additional support to local authorities by investing an additional £15 million every year to further enhance capacity to respond effectively to the individual needs of children and young people.

In October 2020, the Scottish Government and COSLA published a joint response to the independently-chaired Review of Additional Support for Learning Implementation[190]. The Review set a clear direction for how Scotland can continue to build on progress in this area. The corresponding joint action plan[191] sets out the measures to be taken to implement the Review’s recommendations. An updated action plan[192] and progress report[193] were published in November 2021, highlighting that 8 actions have been fully completed in the first year since the Review, including the publication of a vision statement for children and young people with additional support needs[194].

Education authorities have duties under the Equality Act 2010[195] to actively address inequality and to prevent direct disability discrimination, indirect disability discrimination, and discrimination arising from disability and harassment or victimisation of pupils on the basis, or a perceived basis, of protected characteristics including disability. In addition, education authorities have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils. Under the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002[196], education authorities have duties to develop and publish accessibility strategies to increase pupils’ access to the curriculum, increase pupils’ access to the physical environment of schools, and improve communication with pupils with disabilities.

In 2019, in response to recommendations of the Doran Review of Learning Provision for Children and Young People with Complex Additional Support Needs[197], the National Strategic Commissioning Group[198] published a ten-year Strategy for the Learning Provision for Children and Young People with Complex Additional Support Needs 2017-2026[199]. The Scottish Government is working with the Strategic Commissioning Group to implement the strategy.

In January 2020, the Scottish Government established the Physical Intervention Working Group to develop new national rights-based guidance on the use of physical intervention in schools[200]. The Working Group concluded its consideration of the draft guidance in January 2022. The Scottish Government published the draft guidance for consultation in June 2022[201] and the consultation will close in October 2022.

J) Bullying

In 2019, the Scottish Government introduced a consistent and uniform approach to the recording and monitoring incidents of bullying across all schools in Scotland and published guidance for local authorities and schools on recording and monitoring bullying incidents[202]. An Operational Support Group, chaired by the Association of Directors of Education, supported local authorities on a pilot throughout 2018-2019[203]. The Bullying and Equalities Module on SEEMiS, the schools management information system, was updated to reflect the new approach. All schools and local authorities are expected to be using the new approach to recording and monitoring. Monitoring helps organisations identify recurring patterns, thereby ensuring early intervention and appropriate support.

An interim evaluation was undertaken in autumn 2019 to provide assurance that the system has been implemented across all schools. A final evaluation will be undertaken in 2022 to assess how successfully the new system has been embedded.

K) Religious Observance in Schools

Religious Observance is defined as "[c]ommunity acts which aim to promote the spiritual development of all members of the school's community and express and celebrate the shared values of the school community"[204]. Acts of religious observance are an important aspect within any denominational school. Religious Observance should be sensitive to individual spiritual needs and beliefs. It should be inclusive, valuable and a meaningful experience for all. The Scottish Government guidance on religious observance makes clear that religious observance should provide opportunities for the school community to reflect upon and develop a deeper understanding of the dignity and worth of each individual, and their contribution to the school and wider communities.

Parents are legally entitled to withdraw their children from Religious Observance in local authority and grant-aided schools. This is supported by detailed guidance which encourages schools to discuss the question of opting out of religious observance with both parents and their children[205].

The Scottish Government is examining the current legislation on religious observance in the context of the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

L) Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood (“RSHP”) education is an integral part of the health and wellbeing area of the school curriculum in Scotland. The curriculum is not statutory and it is for local authorities and schools to decide how to deliver the curriculum based on local needs and circumstances. However, we are specific about the need for children and young people to gain knowledge appropriate to their age and stage of education. This aspect of the curriculum is intended to enable children and young people to build positive relationships as they grow older and should be presented in an objective, balanced and sensitive manner within a framework of sound values and an awareness of the law on sexual behaviour.

Learning about RSHP education begins early on in primary school right up to S4-S6. Schools will equip young people with information on a wide range of issues, depending on their age and stage. They will be encouraged to discuss these subjects with their peers and parents, to help them gain knowledge and the skills to become confident in making healthy lifestyle decisions for themselves.

RSHP education is supported by statutory guidance. Education authorities and schools are enabled to choose the materials which best support them in delivering RSHP education. This includes materials such as RSHP.scot[206] which was developed by a partnership of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, education authorities, and other partners to provide comprehensive materials to support young people’s learning on this topic.

M) Tackling Gender-Based Violence in Schools

Through RSHP education, pupils in Scottish schools are taught what sexual harassment is and discuss how sexual harassment in school can be tackled. They also learn about the laws around sexual consent.

Alongside RSHP education, there are a number of targeted programmes to support positive behaviour and relationships that help address gender-based harassment in schools. For example, Mentors in Violence Prevention[207] tackles gender stereotyping and attitudes condoning violence against women and girls, Equally Safe at School[208] tackles gender-based violence, and Fearless[209] educates and supports pupils to speak up about crime.

The Gender-Based Violence in Schools Working Group[210] is working to develop a national framework to ensure consistent messaging on gender-based harassment for everyone working with young people.

N) Digital Inclusion in Schools

The Scottish Government provided £25 million to local authorities in 2020-2021 to tackle digital exclusion. This resulted in over 72,000 pupils receiving a device and 14,000 receiving an internet connection, and ensured that learners could stay connected to teachers and peers during the period of remote learning as a result of the pandemic. In addition, early in 2021, a further £45 million was made available to local authorities to be used flexibly to further support digital inclusion where necessary, and to provide additional staff or to deliver wider family support measures to support remote learning.

A number of Scottish local authorities have also invested in technology in line with their own digital strategies. They have indicated that in total almost 280,000 devices have been, or are in the process of being, distributed to learners. This figure includes the 72,000 provided for with Scottish Government funding. The Scottish Government are committed to ensuring every school-aged child has access to a device to support their learning by the end of the parliamentary session in 2026.

O) Higher Education

The Scottish Government believes that every child growing up in Scotland, regardless of their background, should have an equal chance of attending university and participating in higher education. To support this, the Scottish Government pays tuition fees for eligible full-time Scottish-domiciled students studying their first Higher National Certificate, Diploma, and/or undergraduate degree at Scottish higher education providers. This means that Scottish-domiciled students don’t have to take on the additional student loan debt of up to £27,750 over 3 years owed by their peers in other parts of the UK. Bursaries and student loans are available to ensure that Scottish-domiciled HE students are able to support themselves, and a minimum income guarantee provides financial living support for the poorest households.

In December 2016, the first Commissioner for Fair Access[211] was appointed to lead a system-wide approach to deliver fair access to higher education in Scotland. The Scottish Government has accepted the ambitious agenda for change laid out by the Commission on Widening Access[212], including stretching national and institutional targets.

More Scots are being accepted through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to attend university in Scotland than ever before. Scottish domiciled full-time first degree university entrants rose 29.1% between 2006-2007 and 2020-2021 from 25,790 to 33,285[213]. Latest figures also show that in 2020-2021, 16.7% of Scottish domiciled entrants to full-time first degrees were from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland[214], the highest on record. This is 0.7 percentage points above the interim target of 16% by 2021 as set out by the Commission on Widening Access.

P) Voting Age

The Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was the first occasion in which all eligible 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote in a national electoral event. The Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act 2015[215] lowered the voting age to 16 for elections to the Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland. This allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 and 2021 and in local government elections in 2017 and 2022.

Q) Physical Punishment of Children

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019[216] came fully into force in November 2020. The purpose of the Act is to help bring to an end the physical punishment of children by parents and others caring for or in charge of children. The Act did not create a new criminal offence, but instead removed the existing defence of “reasonable chastisement” to a charge of assault. It provides children with the same protection from assault as adults.

R) Recruitment to the Armed Forces

The Armed Forces (Enlistment) Regulations 2009[217] prohibit persons under the age of 18 from joining the Armed Forces without the consent of a person with parental responsibilities, and all service personnel have a statutory right to claim discharge up to their 18th birthday. While the UK Government is responsible for recruitment to the armed forces, and defence policy is reserved to the UK Government, the wellbeing of young people is not. The Scottish Government continues to expect the Ministry of Defence to comply fully with its obligations to ensure that those recruited to the armed forces, including those from Scotland, do not see active service in conflict before the age of 18.

S) Historical Abuse of Children

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry[218] was established by the Scottish Government in 2015 to investigate and raise public awareness of child abuse in the period 1930 to 2014, identify systemic failures, and make recommendations to improve legislation, policy and practice. Public hearings run in phases, addressing different institutions and establishments or topics. To date there have been a number of phases, including phases examining establishments run by religious and voluntary institutions, child migration, and how government has responded to issues raised by survivors.

The Inquiry continues to publish its findings based on the evidence that it has examined to-date and its recommendations are expected to be made in its final report. The current Phase 7 hearings have been examining foster care and the hearings are due to conclude in December 2022. The Inquiry will commence with Phase 8 in May/June 2023 focusing on residential accommodation for young offenders and children and young people in need of care and protection. This will encompass residential accommodation provided or used by the state in the period 1930 until 2014. The Inquiry does not have a fixed end date, but rather it will carry on until its work has completed.

The Scottish Government currently funds two support funds for victims of childhood abuse. Future Pathways[219] supports people who experienced childhood abuse or neglect while living in care in Scotland and is fully funded by Scottish Government as part of a wider strategy to address the legacy of historic abuse in Scotland. Annual funding for Future Pathways is currently £5 million. The Survivors of Childhood Abuse Support Fund[220] (“SOCAS”) provides support to survivors of abuse in any setting. In 2019, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport approved a new £10 million SOCAS Fund with awards totalling a maximum of £2.5 million per year over a four-year period. The fund replaced the Survivor Support Innovation and Development Fund which ended in March 2020.

Scotland’s Redress Scheme[221] opened for survivor and next of kin applications in December 2021. The scheme is delivered by the Scottish Government and Redress Scotland[222], a new independent public body, and is open to survivors of historical child abuse who were abused as a child aged 17 years or younger before December 2014 in a relevant care setting in Scotland. In some circumstances, the next of kin of deceased survivors can make an application. Relevant care settings include children’s homes, some residential schools, boarding out, foster care and, in some cases, long-stay hospitals.

There are two types of Redress payment – a fixed payment of £10,000 or an individually-assessed payment up to £100,000. Emotional and practical support, as well as support to access records is available throughout the application process. A Redress Scotland panel will consider applications and make a decision on eligibility and the level of redress payment to offer based on the available evidence. The Scottish Government is not involved in making decisions about applications.

T) Mosquito Devices

The Scottish Government is opposed to the use of mosquito anti-loitering devices. We do not believe the use of mosquito devices is consistent with our approach to tackling antisocial behaviour and nor is it consistent with our desire to promote strong and supportive communities where people’s rights are recognised and respected. We believe the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004[223] currently provides sufficient measures to help police and local authorities deal with antisocial behaviour wherever it arises.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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