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Court ruling on child rights Bill a 'bad day for Scotland'


By Alan Beresford

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A SUPREME Court ruling on a bid to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Scottish law has been described as a "bad day for Scotland".

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam, pictured here with son Isaac.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam, pictured here with son Isaac.

The court has ruled that certain parts of Bills passed unanimously by Holyrood regarding UNCRC are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. Specifically, keystone Scottish legislation passed by Westminster before 1999 on matters now devolved will no longer be subject to UNCRC.

This includes critical legislation that are the foundation stones of devolved services such as the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act, the Police Act 1997, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the 1978 National Health Service (Scotland) Act, the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, and the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam MSP said it marked a bad day both for the nation's young people and devolution itself.

She continued: “While I fully respect the Supreme Court’s ruling...today is not a good day for Scotland’s children.

“The court’s ruling has put the limitations of devolution into the open. It’s shown a stark contrast between two governments, where we have a government in Scotland who looked to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in law.

"On the other hand, we have a UK government actively implementing policies that they know will make life harder for our young people.

“This shows that independence is the only route to protect Scotland’s children from the damaging policies of the UK government.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said the ruling called into question many other areas of legislation.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP.

“While we fully respect the court’s judgment, it lays bare the weakness of, and the limits in, the devolution settlement. The ruling means it is outwith the power of the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation it considers necessary to fully ensure the rights of Scotland’s children are protected.

“The UNCRC Bill was created to deliver a revolution in children’s rights, making sure children and young people are involved in decisions that affect their lives. The Bill was backed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and celebrated as a landmark by campaigners across the country.

“The European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill strengthens local government by incorporating the Charter into Scots law. Starting as a Member’s Bill, it too was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and it was supported by local government and Cosla.

“[The] judgment will require careful consideration. I will update parliament...but one thing is already crystal clear: the devolution settlement does not give Scotland the powers it needs.”

Moray MP and Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross MP described the situation as "bizarre" and accused the SNP Scottish Government of deliberately "picking a fight" with Westminster.

Moray MP and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Picture: James Mackenzie
Moray MP and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Picture: James Mackenzie

He continued: “We are in the bizarre situation where SNP politicians say they respect this judgement from the Supreme Court, then do everything they can to undermine the unanimous ruling.

“Maybe they should actually consider what the Supreme Court said. They were scathing that the Scottish Government knew they were legislating in breach of the Scotland Act but pressed ahead regardless. The UK government even offered solutions to these problems, but yet again the SNP wanted to pick a fight with the UK government for the sake of it.

“The SNP’s approach to this important legislation has delayed a Bill on children’s rights that every party in the Scottish Parliament supported."


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