With only weeks to go before the second anniversary of the Scottish Parliament’s passing of landmark legislation on children’s rights, Martin Whitfield MSP has led a debate at Holyrood on the ongoing delay in its implementation.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by MSPs on 16th March 2021, following more than 10 years of campaigning by children, young people and their families, and by leading children’s organisations across Scotland.
The legislation adopted a maximalist approach to incorporating children’s rights into Scots law with the intention of delivering a “revolution in children’s rights”. However, within months of being passed certain parts of the legislation were deemed by the UK Supreme Court to be outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament. That means that the bill must be reconsidered to bring it within the parliament’s competence and allow it to become law.
Nearly 18 months on from the Supreme Court ruling, the Scottish Government has still not provided a timescale for how it will achieve this or published information on its proposals for amending the bill. Mr Whitfield’s Member’s Business debate highlighted growing concerns about this delay and the uncertainty it has created.
The South Scotland MSP echoed calls from children’s charities for the government to set out to children their continued commitment to the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law and to publish its amendments for the reconsideration of the bill to bring it within the parliament’s competence.
Martin Whitfield MSP said:
“As a parent and teaching professional I have always been passionate about children’s rights and how we can best embed them in Scottish society and the daily lived experiences of children and young people.
“The passage of legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law was hugely significant and should have quickly paved the way to new rights for children in Scotland.
“I accept that the challenge to the legislation’s competence and the Supreme Court’s subsequent ruling was inevitably going to result in a delay to its implementation. However, two years on since it was passed, we’re still no further forward with knowing how Ministers will progress the reconsideration of the bill to ensure it falls within the competence of Holyrood.
“Children and young people, their families and children’s charities and other organisations spent years campaigning for this ground-breaking change. They deserve to be given clarity on how the legislation will be changed and what the timescale for this process looks like.
“I hope this debate has helped to shed some further light on the issue and will push Ministers to get on with the work that is required to fix the legislation and finish the job of enshrining the UNCRC in Scots Law as soon as possible.”
Click here to watch a clip from Mr Whitfield’s speech and find further details about the debate.