UK Supreme Court considers Scottish Children’s Rights Bill: Day 1 round-up

The first day of the UK Supreme Court hearing on the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill has come to a close. Judges heard submissions for the Attorney General and Advocate General – legal advisors to the UK Government. This blog gives a quick update on developments.

What did the UK Government say?

At the heart of this legal challenge is the UK Government’s belief that aspects of the UNCRC Bill go beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament. You can read more about this and the background to the case in our earlier blog.

A representative for the UK Attorney General and Advocate General explained the constitutional background to the Scottish Parliament. He noted that the Scottish Parliament has limited powers as set out in the Scotland Act 1998. By contrast, the UK Parliament is sovereign and retains powers to legislate for Scotland.

Much of the UK submission focused on the fact that the Scottish Parliament cannot change the power that the UK Parliament holds to legislate for Scotland. In his view, certain sections of the UNCRC Bill may affect this power – whether intentionally or not – as they could give Scottish judges new powers over legislation passed by the UK Parliament.

The Attorney General and Advocate General discussed whether the relevant sections of the UNCRC Bill could be interpreted in a way that brought them within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

A representative for the Lord Advocate (legal advisor to the Scottish Government) noted Scottish Government’s intention that the Bill would be “maximalist” in that it would ensure children’s rights were protected to the maximum extent of the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

What will happen tomorrow?

The hearing will resume at 10:30am tomorrow morning.

The Judges will hear the rest of submissions for the Scottish Government.

When will we know the Supreme Court’s decision?

It is not clear how quickly the Supreme Court will publish its decision following the hearing.

The Supreme Court might decide that the Bill is within the powers of the Scottish Parliament or it might say that parts of it need to be changed. If parts need changed, then the Supreme Court may send the Bill back to the Scottish Parliament to make these changes.

What does all this mean for children’s human rights?

The Bill cannot become a law until after the Supreme Court has made its decision, any issues the Supreme Court identifies have been fixed and the Bill has received Royal Assent. However, the vast majority of work needed to progress UNCRC implementation can and is continuing. Together is already supporting Scottish Government with a phased approach to producing guidance that will support everyone in Scotland progress children’s rights. 

Once Royal Assent is given, the Bill automatically enters into force six months later. However, Scottish Government can choose to commence the Bill even sooner than six months after Royal Assent. Together will be encouraging Scottish Government to do so, recognising how important it is that children’s rights are protected in law.  In the meantime, public bodies must continue to prepare for the changes the Bill will introduce.

Together will continue to support full implementation of children’s human rights in line with the UK’s existing obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

How can I follow what’s happening?

The hearing will be live-streamed here on 28th and 29th June.

Follow our Twitter (@together_sacr) and subscribe to our e-newsletter for updates.

You can also get in touch via

Special thanks go to Article 39 for their notes on proceedings. Follow @article_39 on Twitter and read their live thread here.

Artwork by Liv Wan

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