UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Scotland – Carlene McCavoy, RoSPA

Reproduced on our website with the permission of RoSPA. You can find the original article here.

In serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity.” (Carol Bellamy, Former Executive Director of UNICEF).


In April 2019, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon committed to passing a law by 2021 that would bring the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law. This will effectively bind children’s human rights with government policy.

The UNCRC was drafted in 1989 and is the most widely- and rapidly-ratified human rights treaty in history. The convention has 54 articles which cover all aspects of a child’s life.

Scotland will become the first country in the UK to incorporate the convention as law, meaning it will be on par with other countries across the world that have led the way in children’s human rights, such as Iceland and Norway.

One of Scotland’s key National Outcomes is that “our children grow up loved, safe and respected”, so that they can realise their full potential. The concept of “safe” is not new in Scotland. The Scottish Government is committed to its policy to help support children and young people through Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC). GIRFEC seeks to promote wellbeing through eight indicators known as the SHANARRI principles: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included.

Safe is defined as “protected from abuse, neglect or harm at home, at school or in the community”. This concepts links to much of the UNCRC, in particular Article 19 – the right to be protected from being hurt. It also relates to Article 24 – the right to the best health possible and the right healthcare and information to remain safe and well.

Perhaps the lesser known aspect of Article 24 is the prevention of accidents and unintentional injuries. Section 2,e “States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures…to ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents”.

It is important to note that the prevention of accidents is a public health issue. Every week, approximately 139 children under the age of 15 are admitted to hospital in Scotland due to a serious unintentional injury such as a fall, burn or scald, or accidental poisoning. Many, many more children will attend A&E departments because they have suffered an injury and even more will visit their GP or will be treated at home by parents and carers. Last year, 16 children under the age of 15 lost their lives due to unintentional injuries. This constitutes about seven per cent of all fatalities for children under the age of 15.

Incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law is an important and powerful step for children’s human rights, and is something which RoSPA supports fully, and believes will help to raise awareness of this public health issue and enable the re-allocation of resources to focus on initiatives that will reduce the toll of pain and suffering to children caused by something which, after all, is generally preventable.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

Carlene McAvoy, community safety development manager, RoSPA

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