A landmark children's rights bill has cleared the final hurdle to become law in Scotland.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent this week, putting protections for the fundamental human rights of children into Scots law

With this step, Scotland becomes the first UK country to embed the UNCRC into law. 

Despite widespread support from young people and parent groups and cross-party support in Holyrood, the bill had to be reworked last year following legal challenges from the UK government.

In its current form, the UNCRC Act will mean that public bodies are legally obligated to comply with the rights and regulations set out in the UN treaty, but it can only be applied to acts of the Scottish Parliament. 

The success of the bill was welcomed by children's rights advocates across the country.

Mollie McGoran MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said that this "crucial" next step will give young people greater protection of their rights.
"While this has been a long time coming with significant challenges along the way, Royal Assent means this is now law and it will change the lives of children and young people in Scotland for the better.
"At the Scottish Youth Parliament, we've joined with other human rights defenders across Scotland to campaign for this point for more than a decade.

"I'm delighted we've reached this point.
Now Mollie added, work has to start to incorporate the UNCRC's ethos across Scotland.

"Decision-makers across Scotland need to start the process of implementing children's rights into all of their work.

"Central to that is changing the culture of how children and young people are viewed as rights holders by everyone.

Elliot Jackson, CEO of Children's Hearings Scotland, said that earning Royal Assent was a "significant development" following years of legal struggle.

"At CHS, we're committed to placing children's rights at the core of every decision made during hearings.

"While the recent legal change won't immediately impose new obligations or mandate policy or practice changes for CHS Panel Members, who are already working to uphold children’s rights, it sends a clear broader message.

"Children's rights must now be a primary consideration in every decision affecting them, reinforcing our dedication to their well-being."

Patrick McGlinchey, executive director of parent group Connect, said that the next step is to ensure that public bodies remain open to engaging with parents and carers.

"If local authorities and schools are to embrace, champion, and promote children’s rights, they must involve and engage parents and carers meaningfully at all stages of their children’s education.  

"The UNCRC becoming part of Scots law reinforces our longstanding advocacy for a culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland.  

Read more: Holyrood first as MSPs pass UNCRC Bill for the second time following court block

Connect envisions a Scotland where every child and young person thrives through empowered parental engagement in education."

The UNCRC Bill was first passed in March 2021, but quickly met with setbacks.

In October of the same year, the UK Supreme Court ruled that it had overstepped Holyrood's devolved powers and struck it down.

Almost 1,000 days after that initial vote, MSPs unanimously passed a revised version of the bill on December 7, 2023.

Having gone unchallenged by the UK Government, advocates say that the first changes brought by the act can come into place as early as June 2024.

The UNCRC established that the fundamental human rights outlined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apply to everyone under the age of 18.

Children cannot be denied their basic rights on the basis of "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." 

The UNCRC also calls on public bodies to put children's best interest first in all legal matters, and tasks adults with caring for young people.