The bill to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic Scots law has passed its final Holyrood stage.

MSPs unanimously passed the bill, which requires public authorities to comply with children’s rights. The new law will come into force six months from Royal Assent.

Scotland will be the first country in the UK to incorporate the UNCRC, which sets out the specific rights that all children have to help fulfil their potential. These include rights relating to health and education, leisure and play, fair and equal treatment, protection from exploitation and the right to be heard.

The bill makes it unlawful for public authorities and anyone undertaking functions or providing services to children with public money to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements. Ministers must produce a Children’s Rights Scheme setting out how they comply with children’s rights, and report annually; and listed public authorities must report every three years on how they comply with children’s rights.

Children, young people and their representatives have the right to go to court to enforce their rights, if necessary, and the Children’s Commissioner is given power to take legal action in relation to children’s rights.

After the vote, Deputy First Minister John Swinney commented: “This is a landmark bill which is the most significant piece of legislation since devolution, delivering a revolution in children’s rights. That is a major cause for celebration.

“The bill will deliver the highest protection possible for children’s rights across Scotland within the powers of this Parliament, and ensure that a rights-respecting approach is at the heart of our recovery from the pandemic.

“Parliament passing this bill means that Scotland stands amongst a small number of nations like Norway, Belgium and Finland, and I hope our action today will encourage other countries to follow suit.

“But it does not represent the end of the journey in making children’s rights real.  It is now incumbent upon us all to ensure the bill’s ambitions are translated into real-life improvements which transform the lives and life chances of our children and young people.”

Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson added:
“Scotland has shown real human rights leadership in incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law. It is the most important thing we can do to protect and uphold the rights of children and young people. Exactly 18 years ago, the Scottish Parliament showed its commitment to children’s rights by creating the office of the Children’s Commissioner and today it has reinforced that commitment by passing the Scottish Government’s world-leading children’s human rights legislation. This will improve life for all children but children whose rights are most at risk will feel the biggest impact.”