Over two years ago, Scotland made the historic decision to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law. The UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by MSPs but it was challenged in the Supreme Court by the UK Government. Despite promising to do so the Scottish Government has still not brought the bill back to Parliament to be amended.
Whilst the experience of speaking at Cabinet was a personal honour and privilege, I am disappointed that I have had to repeat the same asks that previous MSYPs have already made. The UNCRC is a topic that has featured on the agenda of every single Cabinet Takeover since the very first. It is therefore genuinely frustrating that young people are still waiting for their rights to be fully realised.
You can read my speech below:
If at first you don’t succeed. Try, try again. Is something we are taught from nursery age. We are told it to make us resilient, to make us ambitious, to make us never give up. I’ll come back to this later…
When I was 15, I became a Young Advisor to the Children’s Commissioner, it was my first experience of meaningful youth participation, and the topic we discussed at that first meeting was the United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child. 54 articles of inalienable rights that we were told the Scottish Government would uphold by incorporating into law. The sense of tangible excitement from the other young advisors in the room was inspiring. Scotland was going become an international beacon of Children’s Rights, taking a step into the history books.
Well, that was then, this is now…
I’m 19 now, last month I left my role with the Commissioner, I’ve been an MSYP for almost two years, and rather than celebrating the second anniversary of the UNCRC being incorporated I am now standing here making the same ask that young people have been making for over a decade.
Young people have tried and tried again on this issue because we know the transformational change it will have our peers. Now we need you to succeed and show the same determination to overcome the same obstacles that we have.
Start by communicating. Show us a timeline for bringing the UNCRC incorporation bill back to Parliament and involve young people in what happens afterwards. Not “oh there will be an update soon” or “more information can be shared shortly”.
But don’t stop there.
While preparations for UNCRC incorporation are beginning, they are not going nearly fast enough and there is a long way to go before Scotland’s institutions can say they respect young people’s rights. Our local authorities and public bodies need a massive amount of help to proactively take forward their new duties contained in this bill.
I spent the last year working with a team of MSYPs on The Right Way project. We created resources to help decision-makers, and yes that means you, to meaningfully engage with young people in their work in a way that upholds our Article 12 right to be heard. Throughout this process I realised something. That this is about more than a bill passing, a tick box, or a photo op. It is about institutional and cultural change from top of government to the very bottom.
It is about valuing the participation of young people in more than just your words.
Just one way that culture change could be realised is through rights-based budgeting. We know that public finances are stretched, which is all the more reason to make sure that money is addressing problems where it is needed most. Child-rights budgeting should therefore be an essential tool for every Government department when preparing for UNCRC incorporation.
I was just finishing my first year of secondary school when an MSYP first stood before cabinet to talk about the UNCRC, I have now just finished my first year of university. I have waited so long that the protections in the UNCRC don’t even apply to me anymore.
In that time there have been, two first ministers, four cabinets, six joint cabinet meetings, dozens of debates and motions, well over 300 MSYPs have come and gone but there has only ever been one recurring ask.
Incorporate the UNCRC into law.