Publication - Corporate report

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations

Published: 8 Dec 2017
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order

The Scottish Government response to recommendations from the third Universal Periodic Review of the UK's overall human rights record in May 2017.

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations
5. Freedoms

5. Freedoms

“ Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai

5.1 Family life [134]

UPR recommendations [135]

  • Provide protection to the family as a natural and fundamental unit in society

Baby boxes

The Scottish Government is determined that every child, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life, and Scotland’s Baby Box ensures that families have access to essential items in the first few months of a child’s life. It has been awarded British Safety Standard accreditation as a crib for domestic use and, as well as health care items for babies, contains breast pads and maternity towels.

The registration process for Scotland’s Baby Box offers health professionals the opportunity to engage with parents at timely intervals throughout pregnancy. This is an important step in encouraging the small number of expectant mothers who do not currently register for ante natal services to do so, and to receive appropriate support and health care for themselves and their baby. The Baby Box also provides health professionals with a timely opportunity to introduce expectant parents to a wide range of health promotion information, such as adopting healthy eating and lifestyle habits, smoking cessation and carbon monoxide monitoring, as well as ‘no alcohol’ messaging.

Registration for Scotland Baby Box opened on 15 June 2017, with over 10,000 registrations to date. Delivery began on 15 August and over 3,000 boxes have already been despatched. From 1 November, Baby Boxes will be delivered at least four weeks before the baby’s due date.

Health visitors

To support and improve family life, the Scottish Government is investing resources into the early years and has committed to increase the number of health visitors by 500 by the end of 2018. There is strong evidence that health visitors can have a positive effect on child and family health, playing a pivotal public health role in relation to individuals, families and communities.

Recognising the need for transformational change to health visiting services to enhance the quality of care and improve outcomes for families, in October 2015 the Scottish Government published a Universal Health Visiting Pathway, [136] along with a set of tools and resources to support delivery. The pathway integrates the work of health visitors with children’s services to create a joined up whole-system, consistent approach across all agencies, delivered in the context of the duties and provisions set out in Getting It Right For Every Child and the CYP Act 2014. The report Evidence in support of the Universal Health Visiting Pathway (May 2015) [137] reported significant benefits, including mothers having a more relaxed experience of parenting, being able to use health services appropriately (reduced use of emergency or GP care), and improvements in the home environment. Full rollout of the pathway is expected by 2020.

Early learning and childcare

It is widely acknowledged that the provision of universally accessible and high quality early learning and childcare enriches children with skills and confidence to carry into, and further develop throughout school, and is a cornerstone for closing the poverty-related attainment gap. The Scottish Government will deliver a transformative change in the early learning and childcare ( ELC) provision in Scotland by almost doubling the funded entitlement to up to 1,140 hours per year by 2020 for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 ( CYP Act) increased the annual entitlement from 475 to 600 hours for all three and four year olds, and introduced provision for eligible two year olds. To support implementation, £969.2 million has been committed to local authorities over six years (from 2014-15).

The CYP Act extended provision to those two year olds who were looked after (including those in kinship care) and those whose parents were in receipt of out of work benefits. From August 2015, provision for two year olds was extended to include families receiving some in-work benefits, with eligibility now estimated to capture around a quarter of the two year old population. Once a child becomes entitled to ELC, they will stay entitled even if their parent becomes employed, their income increases or their situation with a parent or carers changes.

Recognising that access to funded provision can be problematic for some families, the CYP Act also made it a legal requirement for local authorities to increase flexibility and choice in how funded hours are offered, informed by ongoing consultation with parents.

The Scottish Government’s vision for the expansion was set out in A Blueprint for 2020 consultation in October 2016, underpinned by the following principles:

  • Quality - the expansion will ensure a high quality experience for all children, which complements other early years and educational activity to close the attainment gap, and recognises the value of those entrusted to give our children the best start in life
  • Flexibility - the expansion will support parents and carers in work, training or study, through greater choice of provider and patterns of provision that are better aligned with working patterns whilst delivering this in a way that ensures a high quality experience for the child
  • Accessibility - ELC capacity is sufficient and is as conveniently geographically located as possible - particularly in areas of higher deprivation and in rural communities - to support families and enable parents and carers to work, train and study, while also appropriately meeting the needs of children who require additional support and parents who request ELC through the medium of Gaelic
  • Affordability - the expansion will increase access to affordable ELC, which will help to reduce barriers to participating in the labour market that parents and carers face

A Blueprint for 2020 Action Plan for 2017-18 [138] commits to 31 actions to ensure that the expansion of ELC is rooted in a high quality experience for children and to support delivery partners in building additional capacity. The Scottish Government has committed to publishing annual action plans and themed progress reports up to 2020.

The Action Plan highlighted that the Scottish Government’s approach to delivering funded ELC is fundamentally provider neutral. This means that a model will be created, by 2020, which prioritises the settings that are best placed to deliver quality outcomes for children regardless of which sector they are provided by. This approach, which will be built upon a Funding Follows the Child model, will safeguard quality provision of ELC while offering parents a greater choice of settings, and ensuring financially sustainable provision across all sectors.

Local authorities will continue to play a vital role in delivering the funded ELC entitlement – as the primary guarantors of quality and the key enablers of flexibility and choice. Local authorities will retain statutory responsibility for ensuring that funded ELC entitlement is available to all eligible children in their area, and will receive funding from the Scottish Government to enable them to discharge this responsibility.

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that a career in ELC is an attractive and long-term option. Public sector staff working in ELC in Scotland already receive the Living Wage, but most of those working in the private and third sectors do not. The Scottish Government wants to see all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement paid the Living Wage from the introduction of the expanded entitlement in 2020. The Scottish Government is committed to providing sufficient additional funding to allow local authorities to agree rates with funded providers in the private and third sectors that enables them to pay the Living Wage to care workers providing the funded entitlement.

Improving children’s outcomes

The Scottish Government will publish a Quality Action Plan by the end of October 2017 that sets out what more needs to be done to strengthen quality in ELC, and will use this as a driver for improving children’s outcomes. The expansion will continue to ensure a high quality experience for all children, supporting positive child development and helping children to develop their physical, cognitive and social skills, including their ability to self-regulate. From the earliest stage the aim is to equip every child with the early speech, language and communications skills and the foundations for numeracy to support their learning and achievement, and ensure that every child has the same chance to succeed.

This learning starts in the home, and ELC provision must be integrated with support for families, in particular in supporting parents and carers to improve and enrich the home learning environment. For example, initiatives such as PlayTalkRead and Bookbug provide support and material to help parents and carers to bond with their children and give them the best start in life, as well as having some fun at the same time. However, for young children who face the greatest disadvantages, additional support may be required to support the ambition to close the attainment gap. That is why the Scottish Government has committed to ensuring that, by 2018, nurseries in Scotland’s most deprived areas will benefit from an additional qualified teacher or graduate.

ELC expansion will support the vision, set out in the National Improvement Framework, of an education system that delivers both excellence and equity in equal measure for all children in Scotland. It will complement other early years and educational activity, such as Getting it right for every child and the Play Strategy (and accompanying Action Plan), to help those children who stand to benefit the most. It will also make a vital contribution to efforts to make demonstrable progress in closing the attainment gap between the most and the least disadvantaged children during the current parliamentary session, and to substantially eliminate the gap over the next decade.

Strengthening inclusion

ELC provision must ensure equality of access and account for the varying needs of all children. These needs can vary depending on a number of factors, including whether a child is disabled or has additional support needs ( ASN), is from an ethnic minority background, lives in a deprived area, or has challenging family circumstances.

The Scottish Government will continue to support implementation of the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004 (as amended) to ensure children’s ASN are identified and provided for. That includes those who are identified from birth as having a disability and are brought to the attention of the education authority as needing additional support. The Scottish Government already has plans to revise and improve the statutory guidance on the 2004 Act, in particular by clarifying responsibilities.

Accessibility will be promoted in the design principles for new ELC infrastructure, recognising the impact of good design principles on children with ASN and disabilities, with examples of sensory rooms and space to create relaxed, calm environments for children to be highlighted within the section about use of space.

In March this year, the First Minister announced a new ELC Inclusion Fund to be in place by early 2018. This £2 million fund (over four years) will enable staff to support children with ASN or disabilities. This could cover funding for specialist training for ELC staff, as well as funding for equipment for adaptations, providing sensory areas or establishing equipment banks in local areas.

In addition, the action plan included a commitment to improve the data collected on children with ASN to enhance understanding of the additional support needs of this age group and the support plans in place for them.

Support for parents and carers

Through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund, the Scottish Government provides significant funding to organisations that support parents, carers, children and families. This funding enables a wide range of support to be provided, with a particular focus on helping families develop and maintain positive relationships, including supporting parents, children and wider family members experiencing relationship difficulties or conflict. Funding in this area allows organisations such as Relationships Scotland, The Spark, Cyrenians and Mellow Parenting to deliver services including mediation, counselling, child contact centres, parenting programmes and practical resources.

Parental leave and flexible working

Although the legal powers governing shared parental leave and flexible working are currently reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is committed to working with employers, directly and through their representative bodies, to promote and support flexible working. Underpinning this commitment is a recognition that flexible working arrangements are critical to enabling families to spend time together and forge positive relationships. The Scottish Government funds, and is an active member of Family Friendly Working Scotland, working in partnership with Working Families, Parenting Across Scotland and Fathers Network Scotland to support and promote the development of family-friendly workplaces across Scotland.

Recognising the importance of developing and maintaining positive relationships within families, and dealing with conflict when it arises, the Scottish Government provides more than £2 million per year in funding, through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund, for organisations that provide counselling, mediation, child contact centres, and a range of high quality resources.

Removal of children from their families

The Scottish Government expects that all professionals dealing with children and their families act in accordance with the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2014 [139] . The Guidance outlines that, unless the level of risk posed to the child requires emergency measures to immediately protect that child (sections 351-353 of the Guidance outline emergency legal measures to protect children at risk), procedures to remove a child from its family will only start after extensive efforts to keep the child with the family. Scotland’s Getting it right for every child approach enshrines the principle of the best interests of the child at the heart of decision making.

A core component of Getting it right for every child and the CYP Act 2014 is the Child’s Plan (Part 5 of the Act). Within the context of child protection activity, where this plan includes action to address the risk of significant harm, it will incorporate a Child Protection Plan and any meeting to consider such a plan is known as a Child Protection Case Conference ( CPCC). CPCCs are a core feature of inter-agency co-operation to protect children and young people. Their primary purpose is to consider whether the child – including an unborn child – is at risk of significant harm and, if so, to review an existing Child’s Plan and/or consider a multi-agency action plan to reduce the risk of significant harm.

As the Guidance outlines, in Scotland there are two different ways a local authority can ask to remove a child from its family. If the child is in immediate danger the local authority can ask a Sheriff Court to grant a child protection order ( CPO). Otherwise the local authority can refer the case to a children’s reporter, who will decide if it is necessary to refer a child to a children’s hearing for compulsory measures of supervision, which may include supervision at home, or away from home. The hearing is explicitly charged with determining the course of action that it believes is in the child’s best interests, based on the Child’s Plan and with input from professionals. The hearing discusses the child’s circumstances fully with the child or young person themselves, with the parents and with other relevant representatives and professionals before reaching a decision.

Looked after children

The Getting It Right For Looked After Children and Young People Strategy [140] reflects the on-going collaborative work between the Scottish Government, local authorities, professionals, carers, families and children and young people to improve the lives of looked after children and young people. The Scottish Government approach makes clear what children can expect and what the government’s responsibilities are concerning children’s rights to care and protection where they are looked after or adopted, and their right to have their views heard.

5.2 Marriage [141]

The number of marriages and civil partnerships entered into in Scotland by people aged 16 or 17 is low (33 in 2015). The Scottish Government has no intention of changing the minimum age of marriage or civil partnership in Scotland, and would have concerns that increasing the marriage age to 18 might remove rights from some people aged 16 or 17 who do wish to marry or enter a civil partnership. In Scotland 16 year olds can vote in some elections and can leave school to work full time and pay taxes, which aligns with the minimum age of marriage and consent. If the age were raised, consideration would need to be given as to whether changes to the age of consent were also required.

The marriage notice form in Scotland [142] already makes clear that couples seeking to marry must be capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marrying.

5.3 Education [143]

Raising attainment and closing the attainment gap

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering excellence and equity in Scottish education through a focus on raising attainment for all children and young people, and closing the gap in attainment between Scotland’s least and most disadvantaged young people. The National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan [144] is designed to help deliver the twin aims of excellence and equity, galvanising efforts and aligning collective improvement activities across all partners in the education system to address the key priorities of:

  • improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children
  • improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing
  • improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for young people

In support of the National Improvement Framework, the Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched in 2015 to help achieve equity in educational outcomes, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap. The Challenge prioritises improvements in literacy, numeracy, health and well-being of those children adversely affected by poverty in Scotland’s primary and secondary schools, and builds on the range of initiatives and programmes already in place to raise attainment and reduce inequity for children across Scotland.

The Attainment Scotland Fund (the Fund) will provide £750 million over the current parliamentary session to make demonstrable progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap. In 2017-18 it will allocate:

  • up to £50 million to provide targeted support to specific Scottish Attainment Challenge authorities, children and young people living in communities affected by high levels of deprivation, as well as a number of national programmes, including staffing supply and capacity, professional learning and school leadership
  • £120 million additional Pupil Equity Funding directly to schools [145] to deliver activities and interventions that support children and young people affected by poverty (based on the number of children in P1-S3 known to be eligible to receive free school meals). It is available for head teachers to use for additional staffing or resources that they consider will help raise attainment [146]

There is evidence emerging through the Fund that action is being taken to ensure that children and young people in equality groups are provided with the support they need to benefit from the activities and interventions in place. For example, investment in speech and language development, additional support for speakers of English as an additional language, and/or funding for educational psychologists, counsellors and nurture bases.

A number of local authorities and schools are using some of the Fund for parental engagement interventions and activities, such as home link workers, family learning programmes, parent workshops, breakfast clubs and book groups. The Scottish Government is working with the nine local authorities with the greatest concentration of primary-age children living in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland to develop progressive family learning programmes by the end of 2017. Support will then be provided to roll out such programmes in remaining local authorities in 2018.

Evidence is showing local improvements in outcomes for pupils from the most deprived areas, and work is also on-going to scale up local successes and spread good practice.

Through the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative ( CYPIC), the Scottish Government is supporting local authorities, health boards and third sector organisations to apply quality improvement ( QI) to their work. Embedding QI across public services enables practitioners, teachers and other professionals to test, measure, evaluate and implement more effective and responsive ways of working with the resources they have available. This is helping to improve life chances, close the poverty-related attainment gap and ensure that children and young people receive support for their health, wellbeing and learning wherever they live.

Diversity and equality in schools

The Equality Act 2010 places duties on responsible bodies (local authorities, managers of independent and grant aided schools) to actively deal with inequality, harassment or victimisation of pupils on the basis, or a perceived basis, of their religion or belief, race, sex (gender), disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity.

In the 2013 Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report [147] the issue of inequality in education was framed around three protected characteristics, which evidence showed needed to be priorities: disability, sex (gender) i.e. boys underperforming compared to girls, and race, specifically Gypsy/Travellers. The religion of pupils is not recorded. Bullying was also identified as a key issue that impacts on educational experience and outcomes. The Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Reports in 2015 [148] and 2017 [149] reported on progress, including how equality is being mainstreamed in education policies.

In recent years the Scottish Government has undertaken a broad range of activity to address inequalities in the education of children and young people. Some of these are specific to children who are disadvantaged because of a protected characteristic; some are aimed at children who are disadvantaged for another reason, such as poverty; and some relate to before a child even starts school. All are aimed at achieving equity and improving educational outcomes for children and young people. Further information about these initiatives can be found in the 2017 Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report.

Inclusion and Additional Support for Learning

Reflecting language used in the CRC, section 1 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 [150] requires education authorities to ensure that education is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential. Separately, an education authority has a duty under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to secure adequate and efficient provision of education in their area, regardless of whether the children are nationals of the UK or not.

The Scottish education system is recognised internationally for its inclusive approach. There is a presumption that the education of all children should be provided in mainstream schools, with some specified exceptions - what is key is meeting the individual needs of children and young people. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) [151] requires education authorities to identify, provide for, and review the ASN of their pupils. Additional support may be required to overcome needs, short and long-term, arising from learning environment, health or disability, family circumstances, or social and emotional factors. Ninety five per cent of children with ASN learn in mainstream schools, and only 1% of all pupils learn in a special school.

Those who benefit from the Scottish Government’s additional support approach include children who speak English as an additional language, children who experience interrupted education and children with a disability. The Scottish Government is currently reviewing the guidance available on presumption of mainstreaming. It will restate and reframe the necessity of inclusion in Scottish schools, and will be accompanied by guidance on inclusive practice and how to create an inclusive school environment for all pupils. This same focus on inclusion will be applied to special schools and to specialist units to ensure that all education provision is inclusive.

A specific quality indicator on ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion has been included in the national self-evaluation tools, How Good is Our Early Learning and Childcare? [152] How Good is Our School? [153] and How Good is our College? [154]

Support for children and young people with disabilities

In addition to responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, the Accessibility Strategies and Pupils Educational Records Act requires education authorities to prepare and produce accessibility strategies. In support of the implementation of these duties the Scottish Government published revised guidance on Accessibility Strategies in 2014. [155] Accessibility strategies aim to ensure that disabled children are supported so that they are able to access the curriculum, school information and school buildings.

A recently-launched refreshed dyslexia toolkit [156] supports those working with pupils with dyslexia to ensure effective identification and support, and the Scottish Government also launched the first module of training for teachers and support staff in schools.

In addition, to support those working with pupils with autism in schools, the Scottish Government has funded the development and publication of the Autism Toolbox [157] . This online national tool provides information to support the identification, support and planning of learning for pupils with autism. The Toolbox provides a forum for continually updating and disseminating good practice.

Future activity to support equality, diversity and inclusion in schools includes:

  • in response to recommendations of the Doran Review, the National Commissioning Group will publish a ten year ‘Strategy for the Education Provision for Children and Young People with Complex Additional Support Needs’ - the draft strategy is currently open to consultation [158]
  • following consultation, publishing new guidance for schools and education authorities on:
    • ‘Improving educational outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures’, [159]
    • ‘Healthcare needs in schools’, [160]
    • the presumption of mainstreaming
    • a refreshed ‘Supporting children’s learning code of practice’, [161] which is statutory guidance on additional support for learning
  • using findings from the latest Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research ( BISSR) to inform policy development - the latest research has been developed to provide a richer picture of relationship and behaviour issues related to a protected characteristic, in the context of abuse towards another pupil, and abuse toward a member of staff by a pupil
  • responding to the Education and Culture Committee’s recommendations on the attainment of pupils with sensory impairment
  • strengthening, modernising and extending the Parental Involvement Act 2006 following the National Parent Forum review [162]


The Scottish Government is committed to refreshing the National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People [163] to ensure that it remains current. Respect for All: National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People will help everyone involved in the lives of children and young people to identify and address bullying, including racist, homophobic and abusive behaviour, whether it happens online or offline.

Following the Scottish Parliament EHRiC’s evidence session on bullying and harassment of children and young people in schools, the Deputy First Minister agreed to put Respect for All on hold to allow meaningful input from the Committee. The Scottish Government has now received the Committee’s report, will respond to its recommendations, and publish the refreshed guidance later in 2017.

The Scottish Government will continue to wholly fund respect me, a national anti-bullying service, to build confidence and capacity to address all types of bullying effectively, aligned to the National Approach.

Human rights

The Scottish Government supports schools becoming UNICEF rights respecting schools. [164] Each school should have the flexibility to determine how to do this. The resource Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights [165] is available on the Education Scotland website, the National Improvement Hub.


The Scottish Government published its refreshed guidance, Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: A Positive Approach to Preventing and Managing School Exclusions, in June 2017. [166] The guidance works on the principle that exclusion should only be used as a last resort, where it is a proportionate response, and where there is no alternative.

When considering exclusion, the guidance states it is important to take the child or young person’s views into account and the views of their parents. The refreshed guidance also states that all exclusions from school must be formally recorded and children or young people cannot be ‘informally excluded’ or sent home from school to ‘cool off’. This is a legal obligation, provided for by the Schools General (Scotland) Regulations 1975, which stipulate the school must notify the pupil and/or parent in writing of the reasons for their exclusion and provide details of how to appeal against an exclusion. The right of appeal against exclusion is already provided for in legislation, under both the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000.

Under section 14(3) of the Education Scotland Act 1980, a child or young person still has the right to receive education during a period of exclusion from school. This legislation places a duty on education authorities, without undue delay, to: provide school education for the excluded pupil in a school managed by them; make arrangements for the excluded pupil to receive such education in any other school, the managers of which are willing to take the excluded pupil; or make special arrangements for the excluded pupil to receive education at a place other than at an educational establishment (this could include in a library or community centre, or at home). This is referred to in section 8 of the refreshed guidance on preventing and managing school exclusions.

Where a child or young person has ASN, any decision to exclude them must take into account the local authority’s duties under both the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) and the Equality Act 2010. The 2004 Act also provides that the education authority must take all reasonable steps to ensure that appropriate provision can be made to meet the child or young person’s ASN during the period of exclusion.

Seclusion of a child or young person within a separate space should only be used as a last resort to ensure the safety of a child or young person, or others. The use of this form of physical intervention should be included in an agreed plan for the individual. Where seclusion is used it must be in a place that is safe; it should be managed under supervision; it should take into account the additional support needs of the child or young person; and it should be time limited. The rights of all children and young people must be a key consideration where physical intervention is being considered.

Gypsy/Travellers and Roma

Gypsy/Travellers, Roma, and other Traveller students are entitled to support when they need it under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended). Leavers in the ‘Gypsy/Travellers’ and ‘other’ categories perform worse than the average in terms of attainment and positive destinations, and these groups experience high rates of exclusion and relatively low attendance rates throughout the school journey.

The Scottish Government has worked with stakeholders to develop guidance for schools and education authorities on Improving educational outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures. [167] The recent consultation on the draft guidance sought and received input from, and on behalf of, different travelling communities. The guidance, which will be published later in 2017, recognises the impact of bullying, exclusion and absences, and provides guidance on how schools, education authorities and others can support Traveller children and young people and their families to engage in school education.

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 but it is expected that all schools will deliver on this subject in line with the experiences and outcomes detailed in Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), and it is for local authorities and schools to decide how to deliver the curriculum based on local needs and circumstances.

Health and Wellbeing (along with numeracy and literacy) is described as the ‘responsibility of all’, which means everyone in the school system has a responsibility to teach children and young people about health and wellbeing (physical, social, mental and emotional), including food and health skills (diet, nutrition and hygiene). It supports children and young people to leave school equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to be able to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

RSHP education is intended to enable children and young people to build positive relationships as they grow older and should present facts 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 and continues 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 and safe lifestyle decisions for themselves.

The Scottish Government asks teachers to work closely with parents in the delivery of RSHP education by discussing proposed lessons and resources with them in advance. If parents or carers feel that the content is not appropriate, they can withdraw a primary school-aged child from all, or part of a planned programme of lessons, and arrangements should be made for the child to have alternative positive educational provision.

The Scottish Government is committed to working with the Time for Inclusive Education ( TIE) campaign “to promote an inclusive approach to sex and relationships education.” This work will seek to take forward TIE’s pledges and will include considering whether legislation is required for schools to be proactive in tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, as well as recording specific incidents of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

The Scottish Government is also committed to undertaking a national review of Personal and Social Education ( PSE) and the role of guidance in local authority schools, and also a review of services for counselling and their evidence base for children and young people. PSE is a taught subject that covers aspects of planning for choices and changes, substance misuse, relationships, sexual health and parenthood, in addition to aspects of physical activity, sport and health.

Religious observance and religious education

Religious and Moral Education is one of the eight curriculum areas, and the experiences and outcomes help children and young people to explore the world’s major religions and views which are independent of religious belief, and to be challenged by these different beliefs and values.

There is no legal requirement in Scotland for schools to “hold acts of collective worship.” instead the terms ‘Religious Observance’ ( RO) or ‘Time for Reflection’ are used in statute and guidance. Education Scotland guidance on RO (Time for Reflection), which was developed in collaboration with stakeholders, explains how effective Religious Observance may take a variety of forms and need not include worship at all.

On 14 September 2016 the Humanist Society Scotland served a petition for judicial review on the Scottish Ministers to challenge certain aspects of the Scottish Government’s position on RO. The petition was narrowed in scope, with the remaining point relating to a request that Scottish Government guidance on RO make clear mention of children’s rights in any decisions about withdrawing. The Court granted a further motion to sist the Judicial Review action for three months to March 2017 and the Scottish Government carried out a consultation process with a small number of stakeholders - the consultation period ran until 24 February 2017.

While there is currently no legal right for pupils to remove themselves from RO, the flexible approach to learning and teaching afforded by CfE encourages schools to discuss options with both parents and their children, including in relation to a decision to withdraw from RO. Listening to the views of young people themselves on all aspects of education is very important, as the Scottish Government has clearly recognised through its approach in the CYP Act 2014 and the current Education Governance Review.

Revised guidance was issued on 27 March 2017. [168] The main revision was the importance of considering the views of children and young people in decisions about exercising the parental right of withdrawal from Religious Observance. The petition for judicial review has been formally dismissed with no expenses being due to or by either party.

Future activity

On 15 June 2017 the Scottish Government published Education Governance: Next Steps – Empowering Our Teachers, Parents and Communities to Deliver Excellence and Equity for Our Children – An executive summary. [169] The paper sets out work to fully deliver bold but necessary reform to Scottish education in order to drive improvement and enable Scotland’s education system to realise excellence and equity for all.

The Scottish Government will continue to progress actions in the National Improvement Plan [170] and will monitor progress against a revised equality outcome for education for the period 2017-2021:

“Within the longer-term outcome that every child and young person should thrive and have the best opportunity to succeed regardless of their social circumstances or additional needs, there will be progress by 2021 in the educational experience of those for which evidence indicates their success is impacted negatively due to a protected characteristic.”

Post-school transition and further education

The 2004 Act requires that education authorities plan for transition to post-school no later than one year in advance of the transition for pupils with ASN who require support with transition. This means that transition planning would begin at its earliest when the pupil is 14 years old. The statutory code of practice which guides authorities in these duties is being updated and has recently been subject to public consultation.

For leavers that have been assessed or declared disabled there have been continued improvements in attainment and initial destinations. Figures show that, since 2011, the percentage of leavers attaining one or more SCQF level 4 has increased faster than for non-disabled leavers, and the percentage in positive initial destinations has improved at about the same rate as for other leavers.

Nearly 17% of all learning hours were delivered to students with a declared disability in 2015-16 (an increase of 0.8% since 2014-15). The Scottish Government has continued to work closely with the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC), local authorities, the Students Awards Agency for Scotland ( SAAS) and the college sector to ensure that further education funding and student support mechanisms are designed to best meet the needs of students with ASN. For example, the (non-income assessed) Additional Support Needs for Learning Allowance and the ‘Access and Inclusion’ fund.

The Scottish Government is committed to doing more to ensure support is equitable and fair for further (and higher) education students, particularly the most vulnerable, and is undertaking a comprehensive review with an independent chair. [171]

The Scottish Government has continued a programme of work under Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy [172] to address a number of recommendations relating to equality issues, with a focus on gender, race, disability and care leavers, in education and employment. The Developing the Young Workforce 2nd Annual Report (December 2016) [173] noted significant progress, including work around the SFC’s Gender Action Plan to address, linking to schools, gender imbalances in colleges and higher education; and Skills Development Scotland’s Equalities Action Plan to support more young people from diverse backgrounds to take up a Modern Apprenticeship. There has been good progress around further education:

  • In 2015-16 women accounted for 51% of college enrolements
  • the number of women studying full-time courses has increased by 13% since 2006-7
  • the SFC is addressing gender imbalance on college courses, in line with the recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce and as part of its gender action plan
  • nearly 17% of FTE college places were from Scotland’s 10% most deprived areas in 2015-16, and over 30% came from the 20% most deprived areas
  • six per cent of all college learning hours in 2015-16 were delivered to minority ethnic students (up from 5.6% in 2014-15 and the highest on record) – higher than their proportion of the population (4% according to the 2011 Scottish Census)
  • in 2015-16, 71.8% of minority ethnic students successfully completed college courses lasting 160 hours or more (up from 70.2% in 2014-15), compared to 69% for all enrolments
  • The 2017-18 budget of over £107 million in college bursaries, childcare and discretionary funds is a real-terms increase of 32% since 2006-7

5.4 Higher education [174]

Believing that access to higher education should be based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay, the Scottish Government pays tuition fees for eligible full-time Scottish domiciled and EU students studying their first Higher National Certificate/Diploma or undergraduate degree at Scottish higher education ( HE) institutions. These students are also eligible to access free funded university places.

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 October 2016 the Scottish Government launched a comprehensive review of student funding for both Further ( FE) and Higher Education to ensure it is fair and equitable to students throughout their learner journey. The review will report in Autumn 2017.

More Scots are being accepted through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service ( UCAS) to attend university than ever before. Scottish domiciled full-time first degree university entrants rose 12% between 2006-7 and 2015-16, from 25,790 to 28,770.

The Scottish Government’s ambition is that every child, regardless of socio-economic background, should have an equal chance of entering university. Latest figures show a 1.1% increase in entry rates for 18-year olds from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland. The entry rate for this group is the highest on record (10.9%) and is, proportionately, 51% higher than in 2006. The Scottish Government is investing more than £51 million each year to support approximately 7,000 additional places for access and articulation from college, and is working with stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access, [175] which include stretching national and institutional targets.

5.5 Right to vote and take part in government [176]

UPR recommendations [177]

  • Revoke the blanket ban on prisoners’ right to vote in order to comply with the rulings of international courts.

Prisoner voting

The Scotland Act 2016 devolved responsibility for the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections, making it necessary for the Scottish Parliament to consider the issue of prisoner voting. It would be for the Scottish Parliament as a whole to consider prisoner voting but the Scottish Government has not brought forward any proposals on the issue.

On 7 September 2017, the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee heard evidence on prisoner voting from a wide range of stakeholders, including justice organisations and bodies involved in the administration of elections. The Committee has agreed to hold another evidence session on the topic and to write to the Scottish Government to enquire about the forthcoming consultation. The Committee minute notes that once such views have been received it will “consider what further action, if any, it wished to take on this issue.”

The Scottish Government will consider the Committee’s findings and take forward any necessary action.

Voting age

The Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was the first occasion at 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 [178] 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 the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and the May 2017 local government elections.

In Scottish schools, political literacy is central to citizenship education. It is the particular combination of attributes and capabilities, skills, knowledge and understanding that helps learners to become responsible citizens and to participate in society’s decision-making processes. Political literacy enables young people, through discussion and debate, and developing knowledge and understanding, to make informed choices about the kind of society they want to live in. Skills in discussion are developed in everyday situations so that children and young people learn to respect, value and recognise each other’s views, and develop the attributes, capabilities and skills of political literacy in depth.

5.6 Freedom of assembly [179]

The Scottish Government is opposed to the use of mosquito anti-loitering devices. It does not believe their use is consistent with its approach to tackling antisocial behaviour, nor is it consistent with the government’s desire to promote strong and supportive communities where people’s rights are recognised and respected.

To improve understanding of the impact of the device on young people, the Scottish Government has been working with Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament to conduct a survey of young people’s experiences of the mosquito device. The Scottish Government will consider the results fully, along with any other evidence, before deciding what steps need to be taken, including any potential changes to legislation.

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs has written to all local authorities, and other public bodies, reminding them of the Scottish Government’s position on the use of mosquito anti-loitering devices.

5.7 Freedom of information

The Scottish Government supports Freedom of Information ( FoI ) as an essential part of open democratic government and responsive public services. In acknowledgement of its wider commitment to openness and transparency, the Scottish Government has been given pioneer status by the Open Government Partnership and has set out ambitious objectives in its Scottish National Action Plan. [180]

The Scottish Government seeks to ensure that FoI legislation remains robust and up-to-date. The purpose of the legislation is clear: a person who requests information from a Scottish public authority that holds it is entitled to be given it by the authority.

Given the constantly changing public service delivery landscape, since 2005 there have been significant legislative updates in respect of coverage, including orders extending scope, for example to multiple arm’s length organisations and private prison contractors. The Scottish Government is currently considering responses following consultation on extending coverage to Registered Social Landlords.

In respect of human rights, this is a developing area of case law and the Scottish Government considers all relevant judgements for implications in terms of domestic access to information law.

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that its performance in responding to FoI requests is of the highest standard. In addition, it will work with the independent Scottish Information Commissioner and others to review the government’s approach to accessing information, so as to proactively secure increased openness and transparency in line with international best practice.

The Scottish Government also engages with numerous stakeholder networks, including the Open Government Partnership, which are forums for discussion on all issues relating to openness and transparency, including FoI.

5.8 Freedom of expression [181]

The Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press, which puts in place a process to implement the recommendations of the Leveson Report, was agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments, and was unanimously passed in the Scottish Parliament and by all the major parties at Westminster. The Scottish Government is engaging with UK Government counterparts on implementation of the Royal Charter and is happy to engage with the Scottish press and other stakeholders on independent self-regulation.

Detail on Scottish Government activity to tackle discrimination and advance equality can be found in section 6. Balanced portrayals of particular communities in the media is also key to building a more inclusive Scotland, and as an action in the Race Equality Framework, the Scottish Government will work to improve ethnic diversity in the media workforce and how minority ethnic communities are represented and portrayed. Further, the Scottish Government recently ran a social media campaign about the benefits of hiring disabled people, which was well received. The portrayal of LGBTI communities in the media has tended to be negative, humiliating and intrusive, however, there has been increased positive coverage of transgender and non-binary people in Scottish media more recently, and there is also increased prominence of LGBTI-specific media which is operating alongside mainstream media. For example, Pink Saltire is a charity promoting equality and diversity in Scotland through the media, and Xpress Radio is the voice for equality and diversity in radio with a clear focus on Scottish LGBTI issues and lifestyles.

5.9 Privacy and data protection [182]

UPR recommendations [183]

  • Bring all legislation concerning communication surveillance in line with international standards.

The UK Government’s Investigatory Powers Act 2016 updates the statute with regard to interception of communications, the acquisition of communications data, the use of bulk powers by the security and intelligence services and interference with electronic equipment. It puts in place an enhanced oversight regime, which is judicially-led and includes an additional judicial element to the authorisation process for interception of communications.

The Scottish Government is supportive of law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence services having access to the powers they require in order to keep communities safe from serious criminals and terrorists. However, the Scottish Government is clear that the use of these powers must be subject to the strongest safeguards and robust oversight.

Scottish public authorities who require to make use of other investigatory powers (such as covert surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources) are subject to the legislative requirements of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 ( RIP(S)A). [184] RIP(S)A provides a framework within which the authority must demonstrate that any covert activity that interferes with an individual’s right to privacy is necessary and is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve. The use of these powers is subject to routine inspection by the independent, judicially-led Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office ( IPCO); prior to September 2017, the Office of Surveillance Commissioners ( OSC) carried out the oversight function. The OSC reported annually to the Scottish and UK Parliaments [185] and this duty to report will continue with regard to IPCO.

5.10 Tackling extremism [186]

UPR recommendations [187]

  • Ensure that the planned counter-extremism bill is in compliance with international law and does not single out certain organisations based on general characteristics such as religion and race.

Scotland has a different legal, institutional and community context to the rest of the UK, and therefore the Scottish Government’s approach to building cohesive communities and addressing prejudice and hate crime is distinct. The Scottish Government will consider the merits of any additional legislation and new measures against the current legislative provisions and options already in place to deal with such issues across Scotland.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Individuals through Prevent

The Scottish Government continues to work with partners and communities to safeguard vulnerable individuals from being drawn into criminality and being exploited by those promoting violent extremism and terrorism. Part of its approach includes supporting specified authorities to demonstrate compliance with the Prevent duty, which is part of the UK Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy ( CONTEST). While national security is a reserved matter, the delivery of Prevent in Scotland is through devolved functions.

Therefore, the Scottish Government continues to ensure implementation reflects the specific challenges and circumstances faced by Scottish communities. Governance structures are in place at both sector and geographic levels to oversee implementation.

A concerted effort has been made to ensure that the preventative, rights-based approach taken in Scotland is both balanced and proportionate and aligned to existing safeguarding procedures. Scottish specified authorities must ensure their approach to safeguarding vulnerable individuals is compliant with other legal duties to support freedom of speech, equality and human rights.

The Scottish Government approach aims to address the broad spectrum of terrorist and violent extremist threat. No matter the ideology or idea that sits behind vulnerability, the collective focus is always the early identification of risk to an individual in order to safeguard their wellbeing. This prevents particular sections of our communities feeling stigmatised or isolated and sits alongside wider efforts to build resilient, and more inclusive communities.

The Scottish Government recognises the important role that schools have. Using CfE, teachers are encouraged to give pupils the opportunity to discuss current global and political issues within the classroom and, importantly, understand and respect wider beliefs and values, and how they are fundamental in both local and global communities. While developing critical thinking skills, they remain resilient and equipped to challenge divisive narratives.

5.11 Counter terrorism [188]

UPR recommendations [189]

  • Ensure that counter-terrorism legislation does not discriminate against particular groups on grounds of race, ethnic background or religion, particularly Muslim communities, and is in conformity with the UN Charter and international human rights law, including due respect for necessity and proportionality.
  • Establish an evaluation mechanism of the anti-terrorist strategy that takes into account the observations made by Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies, and that evaluates its human rights implications.

The Scottish Government takes a full and active role in the delivery of CONTEST and works with Scotland’s law enforcement and other bodies to ensure they have all the tools they need to effectively tackle terrorism.

Although counter-terrorism is a reserved matter, the Scottish Government works with the UK Government to ensure that any new proposals fit with the separate and distinct Scottish legal system, respect the current devolution arrangements and are taken in the context of proper engagement and consultation with the public bodies that would be affected by these proposals in Scotland.

The Scottish Government works closely with affected communities across Scotland to offer assurances and commitment to their security, and Police Scotland is also in contact with community representatives.

5.12 Police powers – stop and search [190]

Police Scotland’s practice of non-statutory (or consensual) searches, in which people are searched without a legal basis, was ended on 11 May 2017 with the implementation of the Code of Practice on the use of Stop and Search. [191]

The Code of Practice sets out the circumstances in which a search may be carried out, the procedures to be followed, the record to be kept, and the right of someone to receive a copy of that record. Police officers are not permitted to search someone based purely on their appearance, including their race; rather there must be “reasonable suspicion” based on facts, information, and/or intelligence that the person being searched is likely in possession of an illegal object.

The Code of Practice provides clear guidance to all police officers and places the rights of the individuals at the centre of any decision to carry out a search. Searches must be carried out with fairness, integrity, respect and compliance with human rights. All frontline officers received training before the Code came into force.

The Scottish Government has legislated to require Police Scotland to publish information about how many searches are carried out; how many persons are searched on two or more occasions; and the age, gender, and ethnic and national origins of the person searched. The Scottish Government will monitor this information and keep it under review.

The Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search, supported by Police Scotland, will assist the Scottish Government to assess and review evidence after the Code has been in force for 12 months, with an interim assessment after six months, to see if any changes are required to the Code or to legislation.

5.13 Migration [192]

UPR recommendations [193]

  • Effectively guarantee the rights of refugees and migrants.
  • Review immigration law (Immigration Act 2016) to ensure that it is compatible with human rights conventions.
  • Consider revising changes introduced to visas for foreign spouses based on income criteria.
  • Introduce a statutory time limit on immigration detention, seek alternatives to detention, and ensure that detention is not used in the case of vulnerable individuals or groups.
  • Implement the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons to ensure that stateless persons in Britain access British nationality. Categorise statelessness as a protection status and provide stateless persons expedited and affordable access to British nationality.


  • Revise regulation and administrative practices in order to protect the human rights of female domestic migrant workers, particularly when their work permits are linked to their employer and they have been victims of human trafficking and work exploitation.

Scotland has a large, established migrant community, welcomes the contribution that migrants can make to our economy and to society and, as a confident and responsible global citizen, wants to continue to be a vibrant, diverse country that faces outwards.

Although immigration, nationality, citizenship and asylum are matters reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government supports a system of sensible, managed migration which meets Scotland’s needs, and continues to push for an immigration system that recognises individual circumstances and provides a welcoming environment for new Scots and their families. The 2017–18 PfG includes a commitment to set out the case for further extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament in key areas to support economic growth, including immigration.

It is right that the exploitation of migrants is addressed and that those working illegally are appropriately managed by enforcement agencies. However, an undue focus on irregular migration and the increased criminalisation of migrants, detracts from the contributions that migrants make. The Scottish Government opposed many of the provisions in the UK Immigration Act 2016, including around housing, licensing and asylum support, and remains concerned that many of the Act’s provisions will have a detrimental impact on the lives of vulnerable people and will further marginalise vulnerable families.

For UK citizens, the Immigration Rules were made more restrictive in 2012 and many UK citizens are unable to meet the criteria for sponsoring their non- EU family members, including spouses, to join them in the UK. Recent research has shown the negative impact of these family migration policies, and the Scottish Governemnt remains deeply concerned, supports greater flexibility in the rules, and continues to push for the rules to be changed.

The Scottish Government support calls for a 28 day time limit on immigration detention and for the presumption to be in favour of community-based solutions. The Scottish Government believes that children should not be held in immigration detention.

5.14 Asylum seekers and refugee integration [194]

UPR recommendations [195]

  • Effectively guarantee the rights of refugees and migrants, and review the policy of “safe return reviews” for refugees.
  • Develop inclusive social integration policies towards, and improve conditions for, migrants and refugees.
  • Establish family reunification mechanisms for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and for children relocated to the UK, or who have been recognised as refugees; and reduce the minimum age for family reunion from 21 to 18.

Asylum is a matter reserved to the UK Government. This includes the processing of applications and accommodation and financial support for asylum seekers. The Scottish Government believes that asylum seekers must be treated fairly and with dignity and respect at all stages of the asylum process. The approach that integration should begin from day one, and not just when leave to remain has been granted, is reflected in New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities. [196] New Scots provided a clear framework from 2014 to 2017 for all those working towards refugee integration in Scotland. The strategy has assisted in co-ordinating the work of the Scottish Government, its partner organisations and others in the public, private and third sectors.

Development of the next New Scots strategy is again being conducted through partnership, led by the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council. Engagement took place over Summer 2017 and involved professionals and volunteers supporting refugees, our communities and, crucially, refugees and asylum seekers themselves.

NHSScotland provides health services to all asylum seekers in Scotland, including those whose claims have been refused, and asylum seekers in Scotland have access to legal services and legal aid to enable them to pursue their cases. Furthermore, the Scottish Government believes that asylum seekers should be able to work while their claims are under consideration.

The Scottish Government part-funded the establishment of the Scottish Guardianship Service ( SGS) in 2010 to offer local authorities specific support with issues affecting unaccompanied children. The SGS has enabled separated children to learn about the welfare and immigration processes directly, making the information relevant to their specific circumstances. The Scottish Government currently provides £300,000 grant aid per year to the SGS, which has enabled the provision of assistance, support and representation to over 200 unaccompanied asylum seeking children since the service started.

Under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, the independent child trafficking guardian has been put on a statutory footing. A child’s eligibility for this service will be where there is reason to be believe that the child has been subject to trafficking or is at risk of trafficking, and where there is no one with parental rights and responsibilities for that child. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the role, responsibilities and functions of the Guardian.

Refugees are entitled to be reunited with certain family members who remain abroad, and the Scottish Government believes that the process should be made easier and quicker. The Scottish Ministers have pressed the UK Government on issues such as 30 day visas and the extension of eligibility criteria.