– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th January 2023.
2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, including the latest discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government. (S6O-01829)
Preparations for the reconsideration stage are well under way. They include engagement with UK Government officials on proposed amendments to bring the bill within legislative competence.
Discussions with UK Government officials currently focus on what the Supreme Court judgment means for the application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child compatibility duty when a public authority is acting under powers conferred by UK acts in devolved areas. My officials are exploring options, and Parliament will be updated on what that means for the provisions in the bill after the options have been carefully considered. The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law as far as is possible within devolved competence.
The minutes of the meetings between Government representatives and the various committees and groups that are involved in the bill show that there have been varying responses to people who have asked for updates on the bill. In September, the Scottish Government was
“still on track to have the ... Bill ... by the end of the ... year”.
In October, the position was:
“We therefore have no timeline as yet”.
In November, it was:
“We can’t say whether the amended Bill will be presented to Parliament before the end of the year”.
Again in October, the position was:
“we are fairly confident that the amendments we have proposed will address legislative competence.”
What is the position, cabinet secretary? Have amendments been drafted, are they sitting with the UK Government, and what is the deadline for a response from the UK Government on this?
I assure Mr Whitfield that we have been looking at detailed amendments. I point out to him that we are not the only player in this. The difficulty is that it is exceptionally complex when we have to consider not just what is happening with, and the views of, the Scottish Government, but also the sovereignty of the UK Parliament and the Supreme Court judgment.
I appreciate that it has taken longer than any of us would have hoped. However, particularly given the overall approach of the UK Government to the powers of the Scottish Parliament, I think that it is very important that we understand the views of the UK Government. We are taking time to ensure that we do and that we understand whether they have implications for how we amend the bill.
I assure the member that our programme of work to embed children’s rights continues at pace and that it is not reliant on the development of the bill. That work is continuing.
The Presiding Officer:
Before we move to question 3, I emphasise how helpful it would be if questions and responses were concise.