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Supreme Court rules children's rights Bills not within legislative competence of Holyrood


By Kyle Ritchie

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The Supreme Court has ruled that certain parts of Bills passed unanimously by Holyrood to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 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 legislation that are part 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 said: “While I fully respect the Supreme Court’s ruling on this matter, this judgement has come on the same day the UK government’s cuts to Universal Credit have come into play, which we know will plunge so many young people into poverty. Today is not a good day for Scotland’s children.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.

"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."

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "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.


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