As a parent and teaching professional, I have always been passionate about children’s rights and sought to empower children and young people on decisions that affect their lives and futures.
The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was a landmark piece of legislation on children’s rights, passed unanimously by parliament nearly two years ago. This was hugely significant and should have supported measures to achieve a culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland.
However, the UK Government mounted a legal challenge to the Bill after it was passed. The UK Supreme Court subsequently ruled that certain parts of the legislation fell outwith the Scottish Parliament’s competence. This meant that the Bill must be reconsidered to allow it to become law.
Nearly 18 months on from the Court’s ruling, the Scottish Government has still not provided details or even a timescale for how it will achieve this. Amid growing concerns about the delay, I led a Member’s Business debate at Holyrood last week to question Ministers and ask them to bring forward a firm timescale for reconsidering the legislation.
Some have questioned why this is so important. The legislation was introduced with the intention of delivering a “revolution in children’s rights”. It followed more than 10 years of campaigning by children, young people and their families, as well as children’s organisations across Scotland.
Schools, children and staff in East Lothian have already adopted a rights respecting school approach, establishing an environment where children’s rights are taught, observed, respected, protected and promoted. The legislation would embed this approach and ensure it is universally adopted in schools and other organisations.
I am not concerned with the constitutional aspect of this issue. The Bill was passed on a cross-party basis and we must now work together to finish the job of enshrining the UNCRC in Scots Law as soon as possible.