MSPs have voted unanimously to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Scottish law.
First announced by Nicola Sturgeon in the programme for government, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will enshrine the treaty in Scotland’s statute books in a “landmark” move, according to children’s minister Maree Todd.
In practice, the Bill will mean public authorities will not be able to act in a way that contravenes the UNCRC and the children and young people’s commissioner will be able to take legal action where he feels the treaty has been breached.
Todd said: “Passing this Bill puts us in the vanguard as truly a world leader in children’s rights and it doesn’t represent the end of the journey in making children’s rights real – far from it.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the Bill’s ambitions are translated into real life improvements which transform lives and life chances of our children and young people.
“Today we are delivering a revolution which heralds a new era for this nation.”
Tory MSP Alexander Stewart said his party supported the Bill, even though some suggested amendments had been voted down.
“We in the Scottish Conservatives are happy to support the Bill and have done at all stages and here today,” he said.
“While there remain some issues, we have successfully managed to improve many aspects of the Bill and the amendments we have put forward.
“We acknowledge the work that has taken place by many parties and many people, not just within this chamber, but outside who have contributed.”
He added: “It’s incredibly important that this Bill delivers on its full potential and protects and enhances the rights of children and young people across Scotland.”
Labour MSP Mary Fee said she was “honoured” that the debate on the Bill would be the last one she took part in before her retirement.
“We all have our differences of opinion in this chamber, but one thing I’m sure we all have in common is our unwavering commitment to protecting and respecting our children with every fibre in our bodies,” Ms Fee said.
“And this legislation allows us to do this.
“It builds on an ethos of putting children first in every single decision that we make – we can get more right for every child when they have specific protection through legislation.”
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said issues with the Scottish Qualification Authority’s grading system put in place in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – which saw exams cancelled and teacher estimates moderated by the body, with more than 100,000 grades moderated down – would not have happened had the Bill been in place then.
Harvie said: “It’s quite clear that a robust, participative assessment of the impact on young people’s rights would have stopped that grading model long before the results were issued.
“That’s exactly the type of practical application of the UNCRC that will make a real difference in future.”
Harvie added: “Passing this Bill will be a landmark moment in the history of our parliament – it’s the culmination of over a decade’s work by a great many people who can feel rightly proud of the work they have done to bring us to this point.”
Lib Dem education spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton also praised the Bill and the effect it will have on children’s rights.
“Today Scotland joins a more progressive and enlightened family of nations – we should all be justifiably proud of that,” he said.