Together members: Scottish Youth Parliament, Children in Scotland

UNCRC Article 12 (right to be heard)

Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

“Young people must not continue to be locked out of the rest of the Brexit process if we are to respect Article 12 of the UNCRC; we should have a far more official, meaningful representative voice at the table.”

Jack Norquoy MSYP (SYP Rights Review, April 2018)

“Young people have to experience Brexit first-hand. Nowhere near enough information was given to young people about what Brexit would mean for us. Brexit will heavily alter Scotland’s future, whether it’s for the better or worse. The youngest generation, who will be the first to grow up in Scotland outside the EU, will be the first people to experience the consequences of Brexit. It is us who will grow up to be the electricians, the engineers, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. It is our future, decided by adults – so far without the inclusion of our voice.”

(Soroush, Member of the Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe)

For many years – even before the 2016 EU referendum – Brexit has dominated discussions among politicians and in the media. As the UK moves closer to leaving the European Union, with a new deadline of October 31st 2019, many children and young people are frustrated that they are excluded and ignored in these discussions.

The Scottish Youth Parliament’s Rights Outright: Brexit manifesto recommends: “young people should have a far more official, meaningful voice and representative place in the Brexit negotiations now and throughout the process. Their right to participation under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child must be met by both the Scottish and UK decision-makers.”

Brexit will impact on all areas of children’s human rights. Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) has raised particular concerns about the extent to which it will affect cross border family law, impacting on children’s right to know both parents (Article 9) and right to family reunification (Article 10), and well as protections for children’s best interests (Article 3) and right to be involved in decisions that affect them (Article 12). The Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People alongside the Commissioners for Children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland wrote to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in February 2019 to ask for clarity on several children’s rights issues while reiterating deep concern over the lack of consideration of children’s rights in Brexit overall. It remains unclear what the full impact of Brexit will be on children’s human rights.

In partnership with Children in Scotland, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) established a Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe, with funding from the Scottish Government. The Panel of 19 children and young people has provided advice to Scottish Government and put forward views to the UK Government on issues ranging from human rights protections through to economy, trade, jobs and EU funding. The Panel considered the impact that losing the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights will have on children and young people, as it contains specific protections for children’s human rights. The children and young people made a recommendation to the UK and Scottish Governments that they should “fully incorporate the UNCRC as soon as possible”. The Panel said that “full incorporation of the UNCRC will hold adults to account and ensure the needs of children and young people are met after we leave the EU”.

This recommendation has been taken on by the Scottish Government, with the First Minister committing to incorporation of the UNCRC within this parliamentary term. Incorporation will help to act as a shield against any potential regression or loss of protections for children’s human rights after exiting the European Union. It will do this by ensuring that children and young people’s rights are at the heart of any decisions made by the Scottish Government and that there is greater awareness and understanding of the importance of children’s human rights within government, schools, health services and courts as well as within families and communities across Scotland.

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