Westminster Control Threatening Angus Children’s Rights

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Reaction to Supreme Court Ruling on Scottish Legislation

Graeme has said that Westminster’s hold over Scotland is threatening the rights of children in Angus and across Scotland – and that only independence can ensure protection of future generations.

After a legal challenge by the Tory UK Government, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament could not enshrine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law – a bill passed unanimously at Holyrood.

The SNP have said the judgement “laid bare the limitations of the devolution settlement” in Scotland, while Scottish Government ministers pledged the legislation will go ahead.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has stated that the Scottish Government remains committed to incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law to the maximum extent possible – expressing the government’s acceptance but ‘bitter disappointment’ at the court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court also ruled that certain provisions in the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill are outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament –  a bill intended to further strengthen the relationship between national and local government and also passed unanimously.

The ruling came on the same day as the Tories at Westminster cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, despite mounting opposition to hitting the most vulnerable at such a challenging time.


The UNCRC Bill was introduced by the Scottish Government in order to centre the needs of children here in Angus and across the county in all national and local government decision making.

The legal challenge to this wholly uncontroversial move, and the subsequent judgement, lays bare the limits on the representative body of the sovereign Scottish people.

That we cannot introduce such vital protections for young people, with the backing of all MSPs, is an unacceptable state of affairs – one which leaves our youth at the mercy of a Tory UK Government that cannot be trusted to protect future generations.

With their Universal Credit cut set to plunge 20,000 children across Scotland into poverty, and families in Angus facing impossible decisions between heating and food, it is clear that only independence can fully avert the harsh impact of Tory failings.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney:

While we fully respect the court’s judgment and will abide by the ruling, we cannot help but be bitterly disappointed. It makes plain that we are constitutionally prohibited from enacting legislation that the Scottish Parliament unanimously decided was necessary to enshrine and fully protect the rights of our children.

The judgment exposes the devolution settlement as even more limited than we all – indeed the Scottish Parliament itself -­ had understood.  It sets out new constraints on the ability of our elected Scottish Parliament to legislate to protect children’s rights in the way it determines.

There is no doubt that the implications of this judgment are significant from a children’s rights perspective. This Bill will not now become law in the form which our Parliament agreed, but we remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable.  Whilst the judgment means that the Bill cannot receive Royal Assent in its current form, the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can and is continuing.

The UNCRC is the most widely ratified international treaty, but very few countries have committed to take the journey that Scotland so clearly wants to take. To everyone who has walked with us this far on that journey, encouraging us along the way, I want to reassure you that we will reach our destination. This Government remains committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible.

There is no doubt that we may not yet wholly comprehend all the implications from this judgement – it will require careful consideration and I will keep Parliament updated.

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Bruce Adamson:

Scotland is committed to protecting the rights of children and young people. The Scottish Parliament was unanimous in its support for this law which would ensure that decisions are taken in children’s best interest; that children have a say in decision making; and that all available resources are used to the maximum extent possible to fulfil rights like education, health, and an adequate standard of living – and that there is accountability when things go wrong.

The last 18 months have shown just how urgent it is to strengthen rights protections for children. We will work with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in its role as a Human Rights Guarantor to get this done as soon as possible.


The UNCRC Bill would make Scotland the first country in the UK, and the first devolved nation in the world, to directly incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law.

It would make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements, giving children, young people and their representatives the power to go to court to enforce their rights.

The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world and sets out the specific rights that all children have to help fulfil their potential, including rights relating to health and education, leisure and play, fair and equal treatment, protection from exploitation and the right to be heard.

The European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was intended to develop and further strengthen the relationship between the Scottish Government and local government in Scotland, and so ensuring that priorities and policies are developed and delivered in partnership.  Again, this Bill could not be implemented because of a legal challenge brought by UK Government law officers.