Scotland’s promise to protect children’s human rights in law!

This blog talks about Scotland’s plan to make children’s human rights part of the law.

What are human rights?

Every child is born with human rights. These are based on things like dignity, fairness and respect. No matter your religion, race, gender, or culture, you have and always will have human rights.

Children’s human rights are for everyone under the age of 18 and are extra special. All the rights children have are listed in a document called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (or ‘UNCRC’ for short). The UNCRC includes lots of rights – it has the right to life, health, food, to be free from harm, and even play!

Lots of countries have promised to protect children’s rights by signing the UNCRC.

Click here to learn more about your human rights!

What’s happening in Scotland?

A few years ago, the Scottish Government (the people who run the country) started talking about protecting children’s human rights by making them part of the law. Last September they showed everyone their idea for the new law. This is called the UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill.

Politicians will look at this Bill very carefully and decide if it should become a law.  

So, what key differences will the Bill make?

If the Bill becomes a law, Scottish Government will always have to respect children’s human rights when running the country. Children’s human rights would need to be respected in schools and hospitals, by the police, and even by people who make decisions about roads, parks and the environment.

If the Bill becomes a law, it would mean that children can complain and have something done about it if their rights haven’t been respected. Children would be able to ask a judge to help in serious cases.

Another thing the Bill would change is how the Scottish Government spends money. The national public budget (this is the plan Scottish Government makes for spending money. In this case, the Scottish Budget for the next year is over 40 billion pounds!) is all the money our government has to spend each year. You can think of it as a big apple (or custard) pie which is cut into lots of slices and shared throughout the country. Each slice may go to building roads or new houses, making sure hospitals have the best equipment and our streets are safe, or can even be invested in Scotland’s future.

Drawing of four men with top hats on sat around a table which is labelled 'BOARDROOM'. One of the men sat on the table is sleeping with 'ZZZZZ's' coming out of him.

Who or what gets the biggest or smallest slices of the pie can be a very difficult decision. The UNCRC Bill makes sure our government spends enough money on making sure every child in Scotland has their human rights. This does not mean every child will be given extra money to spend themselves – instead, it means that the government and local councils have to think carefully about how they spend their money. They need to spend it in a way that helps children’s rights.

Click here to learn more about children’s rights and national budgets!

The Bill also says that the government needs to ask children what they think when they are making decisions. This is called ‘participation’ and it makes sure everyone’s voices are heard, no matter their age.

What next?

The Bill is a big step forwards but it’s not the law yet!

Drawing of 'The Meadow of Rights', this is an imagine of children surrounded by daises. One the right bottom-hand side of the drawing reads 'start with planting a seed'. On one of the girl's dress reads 'Every child is unequal and different you have to listen to them and get to know them.

At the moment, politicians who work in the Scottish Parliament are looking at the Bill very carefully to see if it needs any changes. After this, they will have a vote to decide if the Bill should become a law. 

The Bill does a lot to protect children’s human rights but a few extra things would make it even stronger!

Currently, the Bill doesn’t think about all the information needed to help us understand and protect children’s human rights. The UNCRC has a Committee that can help. This Committee is a group of experts on children’s rights who write advice on how to protect children’s rights. This advice is called General Comments. Currently, the UNCRC Bill doesn’t encourage our government to use General Comments as guidance in Scotland. Children and young people have been making their voices heard and asking for this to change. The Scottish Government has listened and said it will change this.

It’s really important for everyone to know about the Bill and be as loud as possible to make sure the government knows what children think!

Thanks to the hard work of children and young people, members of Together and all those involved with the UNCRC Bill, children in Scotland are one step closer to being able to fully enjoy their human rights, participate in important decisions, and have their human rights upheld in our courts.

Now is the time for children and adults to make sure the government listens to them and makes the changes needed to protect children’s human rights!

About the author

Aidan Flegg is a PhD researcher working on a collaborative project with Glasgow University, Stirling University and the Scottish Human Rights Commission. He has background in international human rights law and previous to the PhD worked in policy for the Law Society of England and Wales.

The artwork used throughout this blog was created by the pupils of Sciennes Primary School, Edinburgh. 

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