I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the Scottish cabinet alongside members of the Scottish Youth Parliament & Children’s Parliament. This is a fantastic annual event where the views of Scotland’s young people are taken right to the top of the decision-making process. A testament to our progress in making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
A year ago today, Scotland made the bold step to support the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law. Since then progress has unfortunately not been as quick as we would have hoped. Now more than ever with a global pandemic, a climate crisis and a massive educational overhaul, we need to enshrine young people’s rights in law. It’s time decision-makers and young people worked together to get this done!
Here’s the speech I gave to Cabinet in early March 2022:
Good morning, everyone, my name is Josh Kennedy, I am the Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, and I am 20 years old.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, as always it is a privilege to raise issues relevant to young people up and down Scotland.
This is the fourth year in a row that I have attended cabinet, and the 5th year that I have been involved in SYP, a whole quarter of my life.
I have spent most of this time campaigning to have children’s rights in Scotland underpinned in law under the UNCRC. I thought that our 2021 meeting would be the last time we raise incorporation becoming a legal reality in Scotland but, with the unexpected setbacks of the last year, I am here to discuss it again.
I won’t spend time talking about the life-changing impacts incorporation would bring to Scotland’s young people, I know you all are convinced, and that has been underpinned by the legislation going through the Scottish Parliament with cross-party support almost a year ago.
The unfortunate irony of this is, that the delay from the Supreme Court Challenge and the subsequent wait for action has come at a time when the need for rights to be protected in law has been heightened by the pandemic, issues with assessments, and the accelerating climate emergency.
Since we last met, on the same day as the historic stage 3 debate on the Bill, young people have continued to face the challenges of living during a pandemic which has included various rights breaches. For example, SYP took to the media and Parliament last summer to raise our concerns around the fairness of the SQA assessment appeals process and the way young people’s views had been listened to on this issue. At that time, young people did not have the option for legal recourse in the case of a breach of their rights. This needs to change as soon as possible – young people need that protection.
Therefore, today I’m calling for you to commit to publishing a timeline, imminently, on when this Bill will be re-introduced and made into law. After almost a year since the first version of the Bill passed, it feels only right that children and young people have transparency around when their rights will finally be legally binding.
Public bodies have now had a year to prepare, far more time than the six months that was originally intended. So, I also ask that you begin preparing public bodies for the Bill to come into effect immediately after royal assent to ensure we protect young people’s rights from the earliest possible date.
We have a great opportunity to transform the lives of so many young people in Scotland with this policy, and that’s a well-established fact.
I was 15 when I first started campaigning for incorporation and, being 20 years old now, I won’t get the experience the direct benefits of this change. Let’s act now so that other young people don’t have to have this experience.
By Josh Kennedy, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament