Children's Human Rights in Scotland Timeline

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Children's Human Rights in Scotland

Children’s human rights are already a key part of law and policy in Scotland, and the UNCRC is a central part of the roles of people working across public authorities in Scotland. The timeline below outlines key milestones of Scotland and children’s rights. Links in the descriptions include more information.

UNCRC created
Image of United Nations judges holding the UNCRC while children watch
UK ratifies the UNCRC
Pen writing on paper

This means that the UK government agreed to be bound by the UNCRC, but it was not directly made part of Scottish law.

The Children (Scotland) Act
Children and Young Person's Commissioner established
Children and Youn Person's commissioner logo

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003, created a new role of Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland.

Their job is to work to protect children's rights in Scotland.

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) introduced

GIRFEC is the national approach to improving outcomes through public services that support the wellbeing of children and young people.

The Scottish Government states that this approach is based on children's and young people's rights and it aims to support children, young people and their parents to work in partnership with services.

In 2022, GIRFEC was updated with a stated focus on children’s rights as an underpinning principle of GIRFEC.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examined the UK
A person holding a looking glass

The Committee found that the UK and Scotland could do more to protect and respect children's rights.

Children and young people agreed with the findings.

Scottish Government Responds to UN findings
An image of children silhouettes in front of a butterfly and the words UNCRC do the right thing

The Scottish Government publish the "Do the Right Thing Report" in response to the findings of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

This report sets out the Scottish Goverment's plans to make sure that children's rights are respected and protected in Scotland.

In 2012, the Scottish Government published a progress report and sets out their aim to make Scotland "the best place in the world to grow up".

The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011
Child drawing of text 'adults should listen to our opinions. they don't have to do everything that children say but they must value and listen to their ideas.'

This law aimed to modernise the children's hearing system in Scotland and strengthens the rights of children that are impacted by the children's hearing system.

Scottish Government Launches the Common Core
A child drawing of an ear and the text 'pretty please listen carefully to me'

The Common Core sets out the skills, knowledge and understanding, and values that everyone should have if they work with children, young people and their families.

The Common Core is directly linked to the UNCRC "guiding principles":

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act
a drawing of children speaking and thinking together

This law puts the UNCRC directly into a Scottish law for the first time.

The law puts a duty on Scottish Ministers and (some) public authorities to report on what they are doing to make sure the rights in the UNCRC are part of decision making.

This law does not give children and young people a way to enforce their rights if they have not been protected and respected.

The law also gives the Children and Young Person's Commissioner new powers to investigate when children and young people's rights haven't been properly looked after. The Commissioner can make recommendations about what should be done to make things better.

Scottish Government publishes an Action Plan for progressing the human rights of children in Scotland
Learn childrens rights

In this Action Plan, the Scottish Government said they would:

  • make the UNCRC and the rights in it part of Scottish law

  • raise awareness and understanding of children's rights

  • develop an approach to make sure that children and young can participate in decision making

  • support the use of Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIA).

New laws are passed which impact children's rights

The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 increases the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to 12. (The UNCRC Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that the minimum age should be 14 and that 15 or 16 is better).

After this law was passed, an advisory group was established to evaluate the operation of the new law, as well as to consider a future (different) age of criminal responsibility.

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 aims to end the physical punishment of children by parents and carers.

The Promise
the promise Scotland logo

The Care Review set out what Scotland must do to make sure every care experienced child and young person is safe, loved and respected. In 2020 the Scottish Government signed up to the actions set out within it.

This is based on rights within the UNCRC including the right to live with a family who cares for you (Article 9).

The UNCRC Incorporation Bill is passed by Scottish Parliament
children on a rainbow talking

A new law which makes the UNCRC and the rights in it part of Scottish law is passed by the Scottish Parliament.

However, following a court case in the UK Supreme Court, the law is not yet in force.

The content on this page was correct and up to date in April 2024. This resource was developed as part of the Children’s Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework project funded by Scottish Government

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