Scottish Government Children’s Rights pledge ‘meaningless’ without cash backing say UNISON   

UNISON, the public services union, has challenged the Scottish Government to back it’s pledge to make Scotland the first country in the world to write the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC ) into law with the cash to make it a reality saying ‘no resources means no rights’.

They make the challenge in their response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on bringing the UNCRC into Scots law, which has just closed. Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to incorporate the convention “to the maximum extent possible” into Scots law to the Scottish parliament when launching her Programme for Government.

The union say that despite the Scottish government being aware that writing the convention into law will require a large increase in funding for public services. The Financial Memorandum published by the Scottish Government about the proposal show that they expect public bodies to meet the requirements of these new rights to be delivered within existing resources. This is despite the first minister’s assertion that the Bill is one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the 20 year history of devolution.

In its submission the union points to many instances of children’s services already being underfunded and will now be expected to do even more. The bill also raises the prospect that because new legal requirements are being placed on councils and the NHS, services for adults and the elderly will see budgets cut in order to fund the new rights.

Peter Hunter, UNISON Scotland national official said: “We welcome incorporation. It maybe late and underfunded but it sets Scotland apart from the U.K. and is good for children and good for the much needed human rights approach to all public services. However, it has to be said that it is irrational when intending to put new responsibilities on public bodies without giving them the cash to carry them out.

The first minister says she expects these measures to be  “profound, far reaching and long lasting”.  But without resources all that will result is a meaningless box ticking exercise. That might make politicians feel good, but will deliver nothing for children.  If this really is the most ambitious piece of legislation in twenty years – then it’s reasonable to expect the Scottish Government to show some ambition in funding the services that will be needed to turn that rhetoric into reality.

“The irony is that a focus on children’s rights could help the economic recovery from the covid crisis. The foundation of Britain’s recovery from the Second World War was investment in housing, education and health: one million council homes, the reform of state education, and the creation of the NHS. Together these measures transformed the lives of the generation of children born during and just after the war. Using the same approach – investment in the foundation economy – we can transform the lives of the current generation, extend their rights, and also create thousands of good jobs across Scotland.”

Notes for editors  
Full UNISON Submission the Scottish Government consultation here:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s, Statement given on the Programme for Government 2020 to 2021 at the Scottish Parliament, given on Tuesday 1 September 2020.: “Finally, I can confirm that we will shortly introduce one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the 20 year history of devolution. We will – to the maximum extent possible – fully and directly incorporate into Scots law the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This will mean public authorities – including Government – will be required by law to act in ways compatible with the Convention’s requirements to recognise, respect and be accountable for the rights of children in what we do. The implications of this Bill will be profound, far reaching and long lasting.”

UNISON Scotland contacts:   
Stephen Low, Policy Officer: 07956852822

Danny Phillips, Communications Officer: 07944 664 110