4. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its plans to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. (S6O-00356)
We remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible as soon as is practicable. We are considering the implications of the Supreme Court judgment and how best to take forward incorporation.
We are undertaking targeted engagement with stakeholders on options before final decisions are made. Careful consideration is also needed to ensure that those options address areas that were found to be outwith competence, deliver the UNCRC policy and avoid further challenge. The Deputy First Minister will come back to the Parliament in due course with our proposals.
Although the Supreme Court judgment means that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill cannot receive royal assent in its current form, the majority of the work in relation to the implementation can continue and is continuing.
The issue is too important for there to be further delays. Every day that passes is another day in which those rights are not enshrined in law. I know that the Scottish Youth Parliament is, understandably, concerned about getting those rights into place. We also have issues in Scotland, such as our national qualifications agency being subject to statutory action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, that shows how vital those rights are. When can the Parliament expect a timetable for a revised bill, and how soon is “in due course”?
It is fair to say that the Scottish Government is bitterly disappointed that the bill has been delayed, but we remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible and as soon as is practicable. We are committed to a three-year UNCRC implementation programme in collaboration with public authorities, children and young people, during which time we are investing £4 million a year in supporting a fundamental shift in how children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland. Work is progressing and, as I said in my original answer, the Deputy First Minister will return to Parliament with our proposals.
Does the minister agree that a straightforward—and the quickest—way of incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child would have been by means of a bill that the Parliament unanimously voted for receiving royal assent without objections from the United Kingdom Government’s law officers?
Yes, I agree with that. The Supreme Court judgment makes it plain that we are constitutionally prohibited from enacting legislation that the Scottish Parliament unanimously decided was needed to enshrine and fully protect the rights of our children.
The Government believes that the children of Scotland deserve the fulfilment of the commitments that were made to them, and our determination to achieve that is undiminished. It is with urgency that we are carefully considering the implications of the judgment and how best to take forward that important legislation.
It has been more than a month since the Scottish Government was told that its bill went beyond the powers that are available to the Scottish Parliament. Taxpayers’ money is being spent so that the Scottish National Party can play cynical constitutional games with children’s rights. Does the minister believe that using almost £200,000 of taxpayers’ money to further the nationalist agenda is an appropriate use of public funds? [
Thank you, Presiding Officer. It is very difficult when we have Opposition members shouting over us.
The Parliament is committed to ensuring that the rights of the children of Scotland are upheld and respected. We will continue to work to ensure that that happens.
The Government talked about moving with urgency and being bitterly disappointed, but it could have foreseen that what happened would happen. During the bill process, Whitehall officials informed Government officials that there were problems, but Opposition members were never told of those problems during the transit of the bill. They could easily have been remedied at that stage.
I am not quite sure what point Mr Cole-Hamilton is making. He seems to ask several questions, and I am not quite sure what he wants me to respond to.
The duty of the Government is to ensure that the children of Scotland have their rights respected. We will continue to work at pace to ensure that the will of the Parliament is upheld.