Don't let the constitutional debate distract from need to progress UNCRC bill - Amy Lee Fraioli

The Scottish Parliament unanimously voted in favour of the UNCRC (Incorporation) Scotland bill last session, which was a momentous occasion for Scotland, and the Children and Young People within it.

The Supreme Court handed down their ruling on Wednesday morning

As a former Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament who campaigned passionately for this legislation, it is beyond frustrating to hear today that this legislation will be now subject to significant delay.

While there is much political fury being presented around the judgement of the Supreme Court, when we cut through it the fact remains: young people still do not enjoy the protection of the UNCRC in Scot’s Law.

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That is a failure that sits squarely with the Scottish Government - and the Scottish Parliament. It must be put right at the earliest opportunity.

The Scottish Government were warned while this bill was making its journey through Parliament that elements of what they were seeking to achieve would lead us to the judgement today.

Representations were made at Committee by academic experts Dr Boyle, Professor Norrie and Professor McHarg on the risks of this bill breaching devolved competence, and ahead of Stage 3 the UK Government stressed this again - in a letter which remains unpublished by the Scottish Government - the importance of preventing the bill from straying outwith the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government chose a legislative route to enshrine these rights, rather than taking practical action to do so. Yet, there are actions it can take right now but chooses not to.

Not only has the Scottish Government failed to produce adequate legislation, but at the same time it was doing so it was making policy decisions that did not align with the spirit of the convention.

For example, while the UNCRC Bill was progressing through Parliament, so was the Bill on the Age of Criminal Responsibility which failed to meet the minimum age recommended the by the United Nations.

For example. Mosquito devices, used to disperse young people by emitting a high-pitched frequency breach various rights under the convention, yet they remain unregulated, and legal within this country.

Article 14 entitles young people to be of any or no religion — but across the country pupils are still forced to participate in religious observance, and only parents retain the right to opt them out. And those are just the first issues that come to mind.

A wider constitutional argument is now inevitable, but we cannot allow that to be a distraction.

The Scottish Government must bring this bill back as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows, review the legislation, and ensure that children have the legal protection they have fought so hard for, as soon as possible.

Amy Lee Fraioli is an ex-chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, a former Labour Party candidate, and was involved inthe campaign for the Incorporation of the UNCRC into Scot’s Law

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