Scottish Government accused of 'prevarication' over children's Bill

The Bill that would enshrine a key UN treaty was passed in 2021 but the UK Government stepped in.

Scottish Government accused of ‘prevarication’ over UN children’s rights Bill iStock

The Scottish Government has been accused of “prevarication” over a Bill that would enshrine a key UN treaty on children’s rights into law.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was passed in 2021, with a view to enshrining the agreement in Scottish law.

But the UK Government stepped in, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack referring the legislation to the UK Supreme Court, which ruled it affected powers reserved to Westminster.

The Scottish Government stressed its desire to bring the Bill back to the Scottish Parliament, but that is yet to happen, with a progress report published by ministers in November saying amending legislation would be brought forward “as soon as practicable and our planning for the reconsideration stage is well under way”.

But Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, said “Government inaction speaks louder than words”.

“Human rights leadership demands action, not just words,” he said.

“Over 30 years ago our Government made a commitment to children to respect, protect and fulfil their rights.

“That commitment manifested in 2021 when after decades of campaigning by children and young people the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

“It was passed in a blaze of celebratory glory, children told us about how valued this made them feel, how they felt listened to, cared for, and understood.

“Later in 2021 the Supreme Court ruled that changes were needed in the Bill. Since then we have had nothing but prevarication and delay from the Scottish Government.

“As another year passes and we reach 2023, children are still waiting for their rights to be protected. Government inaction speaks much louder than words.”

Responding, children’s minister Clare Haughey said: “Protecting and fulfilling children’s rights is a top priority for the Scottish Government and we have already made significant progress.

“This includes record levels of investment to tackle child poverty, including through the Scottish Child Payment – a key benefit unavailable anywhere else in the UK – the expansion of free school meals, and the near doubling of funded hours of early learning and childcare.

“We remain committed to the incorporation into Scots law of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible and we will bring forward amended legislation as soon as practicable.”

Scottish Labour children and young people spokesman Martin Whitfield said the Bill had been turned into a “constitutional bunfight”.

“Nearly two years on from the UNCRC being approved by the Scottish Parliament and no progress has been made,” he said.

“It is a disgrace that the SNP has decided to turn vital legislation into a constitutional bunfight.

“If the SNP’s interest in this Bill really does go beyond political point-scoring they need to prove it by bringing the legislation back to Parliament as a matter of urgency.”

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