The SNP Scottish Government has delivered a massive signal of intent about what kind of country Scotland can be by putting the rights of the nation’s children at the heart of everything we do.
It is hard to overestimate how important it is that the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has been incorporated into our laws.
We are the first devolved nation in the world and the first country in the UK to make this significant change and it reaffirms our commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
Children now have protected rights to help fulfil their potential through health and education, leisure and play, fair and equal treatment, protection from exploitation and the right to be heard.
And it applies to every child regardless of their ethnicity, sex, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, and whatever their family background.
The new law – championed by deputy First Minister John Swinney – is a giant leap forward for this generation of Scottish children and for all those who follow.
It takes international promises and gives them the full force of the law in Scotland – the most important thing a government can do to protect the rights of our youngest citizens.
This landmark will deliver a fundamental shift in the way children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland and, arguably, the most significant piece of legislation since devolution.
It will revolutionise the way we listen to children and take their rights into account in the future policies and laws we make, the services we design and deliver. It will build the needs of every child into the fabric of every decision Scotland takes as an inclusive and caring society.
From now on, all decisions made by government and agencies in Scotland – be that Government, council or any other public body – must be made with the needs and interests of children as a primary consideration.
From now on, all children in Scotland will have the protection of the law to help them fulfil their potential.
If these rights are not observed, young people and their representatives – including a Children’s Commissioner – can use the courts to enforce the law to protect these fundamental rights.
As John Swinney said: “It will mean children and young people are involved in the decisions that affect their lives and that children’s rights are always respected, protected and fulfilled by public authorities. This Bill is a significant step towards a future based on tolerance, equality, shared values and respect for the worth and human dignity of all people.”
It puts our children’s needs at the heart of all our thought process rather than a mere afterthought.
That is not just good news for children, it’s a giant leap forward towards the Scotland we all want to live in.