Committee Bill - A Children's Commissioner for Scotland
Committee name - Education, Culture and Sport Committee
Issue - Inquiry into the Need for a Children's Commissioner in Scotland
In 1991 the UK ratified (agreed to comply with) the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
This convention is made up of four general principles:
- Non-discrimination - the right to be treated equally regardless of race, colour, sex or religion.
- Best interest of the child is put first before decisions are made.
- The right to life, survival and development.
- The views of the child should be considered.
The Scottish Parliament's Education, Culture and Sport Committee agreed to conduct an inquiry into the need for a Children's Commissioner in Scotland to establish whether there was a need for such a post and if so, what the roles and responsibilities of a Scottish Children's Commissioner should be.
How did they go about it?
A high priority was placed on consultation both with young people and with other organisations and bodies who deal with young people's issues.
Consultation with young people (2001)
1. A video was produced in which young people expressed their views on many rights issues of concern to them.
2. Three focus groups were set up to research young people's views on the proposals for a Commissioner.
3. The Committee took oral evidence from the Children's Parliament and the Scottish Youth Parliament.
4. A Young Persons' event took place in the Parliament chamber attended by 100 young people.
Consultation with adults/interested organisations and individuals who expressed an interest. A seminar was held to gather evidence and ideas about the role of a Commissioner.
The groups which submitted evidence included:
- Scotland for Children Campaign
- Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights
- Children 1st
- Save the Children
- Scottish Child Law Centre
- Children's Rights Officer
The consultation period lasted about a year, May 2001 - February 2002. Having heard the evidence the committee decided that there was a need for a Commissioner for Children and Young People. It then reported to Parliament on its proposal to introduce a Bill to have a Commissioner. On 25th September 2002 Parliament debated the Committee's proposal. It was agreed by the majority of MSPs that a bill should be introduced.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 15 January 2003 when a Stage 1 debate was held. The general principle of the Bill were agreed to by all the MSPs present and so an ad hoc committee - the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill Committee was set up to scrutinise the Bill at Stage 2.
(An ad hoc committee is one that exists only while a particular Bill is in progress - usually a committee bill or private bill.)
The committee reported back to Parliament and on 26 March 2003 and a Stage 3 debate was held and the Bill was passed. It received Royal Assent on 1st May 2003.