All of our policy work is directly informed by young people’s views about the way they want the world they live in to be.
The Annual Cabinet Meeting with Children and Young People (Cabinet Takeover) gives children and young people the opportunity to bring some of the issues most important to them and their peers directly to the First Minister, Deputy First Minister, and Cabinet Secretaries. The annual meeting is, as far as we know, the only one of its kind anywhere in the world!
Speech from Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Bruce Adamson
This webpage is an edited version of a speech given by Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland to the 75th national sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament which describes the impact of SYP, from the person whose role it is to promote and protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland. Click here to read the full speech.
“The Scottish Youth Parliament is fundamentally a rights based organisation, and I think it is fitting that this 75th national sitting falls only a few months after the UN’s 75th anniversary year in 2020. And even more fitting that in its 75th year the UN focussed its annual human rights day on youth.
The UNCRC is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. It changed the way children are viewed and treated in international legal terms. It proclaims children’s status as human beings with a distinct set of rights, not just as passive objects of care and charity.
Importantly it requires children’s views to be part of all decision making, and that those decisions should be made in children’s best interests. AND it requires the state to use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to ensure rights are fulfilled.
The unanimous passing of the bill to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year  was the culmination of decades of campaigning by children, young people and the adults who work and care for them. The role of the SYP in that was absolutely key. A few years ago there seemed little prospect of incorporation happening in Scotland. When I became Commissioner in 2017 the Scottish Government was opposed to bringing forward legislation.
Without your fierce campaigning, including Right Here, Right Now and all the vital contributions from MSYPs, incorporation would not have been achieved. I think incorporation of the UNCRC highlighted the many strengths of SYP – campaigning, giving evidence, engaging the media, amplifying the voices of young people, supporting children to have their voices heard and galvanising MSPs on important amendments on things like early commencement. Incorporation simply would not have happened without you.
SYP’s work over recent years:
It has been a pleasure to work alongside your incredible work as human rights defenders, and human rights leaders. Your work over recent years has been incredible:
- Your new, From Scotland’s Young People manifesto for 2016 – 2021, based on the voices of so many young people, has many areas of commonality with the strategic priorities of my office, to name a few, Covid-19, education, mental health, social security.
- You were a key part of the campaign to support the change in the law that made it illegal to physically assault a child, which MSPs passed into law in 2019.
- MSYPs campaign to stop the use of anti-loitering mosquito devices led to a complete ban on their use by all Scottish local authorities.
- Your calls for music tuition to be kept free of charge led to the Scottish Government and COSLA working together to find a solution.
- Your campaigns – Marriage Equality, Scottish Living Wage, Votes at 16, Care.Fair.Share – ensure young carers treated fairly by society and government policies.
- Your work to make seldom groups heard: “Disabled young people, young people of colour, young carers, young parents and other seldom heard groups have all bore the brunt of this pandemic, yet there are few targeted approaches to engage with them as Scotland begins to recover from the virus.” recognises what I discussed above, that we must ensure everyone is represented, and in particular adults must ensure they come out of their comfort zones to make that happen.
Defending critical human rights:
I’m hugely impressed by your work on the two biggest human rights issues I encountered pre-pandemic, which have been exacerbated by Covid-19:
- See It Change It to combat stigma and ensure it is recognised as a rights based issue across Scotland.
- Our Minds Our Future – project giving young people the opportunity to influence the way mental health services are designed and delivered across the UK. Recognising the ever increasing use of digital technology.
- Mind Yer Time – digital resource covers topics from body positivity to online bullying: providing guidance for CYP to approach social media in a way that is beneficial for their mental and physical health.
Congratulations on this 75th national sitting, keep doing the amazing human rights defending that you are doing.”