Opposition parties slam lack of movement on Scotland children's rights bill three months on from court judgement

Opposition parties have hit out at the Scottish Government’s decision to ‘kick the can down the road’ on a flagship children’s rights bill which was the subject of a Supreme Court challenge by the UK Government.

More than three months have passed since judges ruled the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child went beyond the powers of Holyrood, with no sign of the bill’s imminent return to the parliament.

The demands for movement also come on the same day the Scottish Government released a letter from Scotland Secretary, Alister Jack, which it received on March 4, 2021.

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In the letter, Mr Jack requests that two amendments are made to the UNCRC bill to make it clear that provisions of the bill do “not apply to Ministers of the Crown when exercising reserved functions in Scotland”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised for failing to bring back a flagship children's rights bill. Picture: PA

He continues: “Making these amendments will ensure that there is full legal clarity as a sound basis for joint working.”

The amendments were never made, leading to the referral to the Supreme Court and the eventual defeat for the Scottish Government.

Pam Duncan-Glancy, Scottish Labour’s human rights spokesperson, said the substance of the letter showed why the government was keen to keep it secret.

She added the lack of movement on the bill meant children have been “let down”, and called on the bill to be returned to parliament as soon as possible.

She said: “Instead of addressing the ways in which the bill would be out with the Scottish Parliaments competence, and getting children’s rights into law, the Scottish Government ignored advice, progressed a bill that was out with the parliaments competence and effectively wrecked its chances of becoming law.

“Now we’re three months on from the Supreme Court’s judgement, there has been no action, no progress and no timescales for the reintroduction of a bill. In that time, the Government has also pushed ahead with policies that fall short of the standards set by the UNCRC.

“So many people and organisations were optimistic about the opportunity of this law, and what it could do. They, and children, have been let down.”

The Scottish Conservative’s constitution spokesperson, Donald Cameron, said the SNP were “shamefully dragging their heels”.

He said: “It is unacceptable that no progress has been made in three months. The government has already wasted too much time and public money playing politics and whipping up constitutional grievance over the issue of children’s rights.”

Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat MSP, added: “It was Scottish Government blunders which saw this important legislation struck down by the Supreme Court, but rather than come up with a fix, the Cabinet Secretary has kicked the can down the road.

"After a tough year for children and young people we should be taking steps that demonstrate that their rights are important to our country.

"Right now, the Cabinet Secretary is selling them short."

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said it remained committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law “as soon as practicable”.

They added: “It is vital that we work through the complex issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment to ensure that incorporation can happen as quickly as possible with confidence that any amendments to the Bill do not attract further challenge.”

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