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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, September 14, 2023


United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-10429, in the name of Shirley-Anne Somerville, on United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill reconsideration.


The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (Shirley-Anne Somerville)

Our programme for government includes a commitment to invite the Scottish Parliament to bring back the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill for reconsideration. That is the invitation that I make to Parliament this afternoon.

As the First Minister set out in his policy prospectus, we remain absolutely committed to Scotland being the first United Kingdom nation to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law, ensuring that we are a country that respects, protects and fulfils children’s rights. The path to achieving that has not been straightforward. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021 but, in October 2021, following a referral by UK law officers, the UK Supreme Court found certain provisions in the bill to be outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

On 27 June, I provided a statement to Parliament in which I explained how we propose to amend the bill in response to that judgment and the impact that that will have on the coverage for children’s rights in respect of the compatibility duty. I explained that, in drafting amendments to the compatibility duty, we tried to balance three important considerations: protecting children’s rights to the maximum effective extent possible; minimising the risk of another Supreme Court referral; and making the law as accessible as possible for users.

In balancing those considerations, I reached the conclusion that the maximum effective coverage is for the compatibility duty to apply only when a public authority is delivering devolved functions conferred by or under acts of the Scottish Parliament or common-law powers. That means that the duty will not apply when powers are delivered under acts of the UK Parliament, even in devolved areas and even where the legislation requires or gives discretion to a public authority to act compatibly.

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

I will start with Maggie Chapman.

Maggie Chapman

The cabinet secretary has just outlined that we will not be able to act in Scotland to uphold children’s rights under the compatibility duty if it is determined that powers are with the UK Government and UK Government legislation. What does she think that that means for the rights and services that we deliver for and to children in Scotland, given the wide-reaching implications of UK acts such as the Illegal Migration Act 2023?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

I share Maggie Chapman’s concerns about the Illegal Migration Act 2023. We have, of course, debated that in the chamber a number of times. Maggie Chapman is quite right to point out that there are a number of important pieces of legislation that will not fall under the remit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill once it has, I hope, been passed by Parliament.

Martin Whitfield

The cabinet secretary rightly talked about the three tests that the Government applied. The second one was minimising the risk of another Supreme Court referral. There has been much discussion in the chamber over two years about contact between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. In the correspondence to the committee, there is an indication that the response from the UK Government was perhaps less than satisfactory. Can the cabinet secretary expand on that and on what potential challenges she fears might come down the line with regard to the amendments?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

I hope that Martin Whitfield will appreciate that the work that has gone on is legal advice work and that it is important that I respect the confidentiality not just of legal advice to the Scottish Government but of the office of the Advocate General. There have been numerous pieces of correspondence and work between officials on that. It is disappointing that we did not get to the point at which the office of the Advocate General and representatives of the UK Government could say that they were content with our proposed amendments. I thought that that would have been the point that we would get to. We are therefore at a suboptimal point on that issue, but we are content that our amendments are within competence.

In balancing the considerations, we have reached conclusions about maximum effective coverage, and that is a disappointing loss of coverage for children’s rights compared with what we originally hoped to achieve. Nevertheless, it represents the maximum effective coverage that we think we can achieve in the present devolved context.

Amendments cannot be formally lodged, and an official decision about the admissibility of amendments cannot be made, until Parliament passes the motion to reconsider. However, I have shared draft amendments to the bill with the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee in response to Parliament’s request to see those amendments. Assuming the Parliament passes the motion, I will formally lodge the amendments on Monday, when the office of the clerk is open. The purpose of my motion today is not to debate the detail of those draft amendments—that debate will, quite rightly, take place at a later stage. Today we are simply asking Parliament to agree to the UNCRC bill proceeding to the reconsideration stage. On that question, I trust and hope that we will have Parliament’s full support.

The fundamental intent behind the bill is to deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. Although the scope of the compatibility duty in the bill will be narrowed, bringing the bill back will give an important signal about the kind of country we want to be, as well as providing a solid legal foundation on which to build in the future, including via the proposed human rights bill.

In June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations following its state party examination of the UK in May. Among its recommendations was that the UK should strengthen efforts to fully incorporate the convention into national legislation in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, overseas territories and Crown dependencies. Following my statement to Parliament in June, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland to provide an update on our plans for the revised UNCRC bill; to highlight the loss of coverage for children’s rights as a consequence of how we need to amend the bill; and to underline the need for the UK Government to incorporate the UNCRC into UK law to give children and young people the full protection that they deserve. The Secretary of State for Scotland responded on 14 August, saying that the UK Government was currently giving careful consideration to the concluding observations but giving no indication of the UK Government’s willingness to incorporate the UNCRC into UK law, and that is deeply disappointing.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

The concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are what keeps the convention alive. The cabinet secretary will know that one of the criticisms that the UN committee has repeatedly levelled against our country—Scotland—is that we still have an age of criminal responsibility that is below the recommended international norm. Can she update Parliament on the progress that is being made to yet again review the age of criminal responsibility to uplift it to a minimum of 14?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The member raises a very significant point. The UN committee’s concluding observations do not deal just with the UNCRC bill progression. If he will allow it, I will get back to him in writing in due course on the point that he raises.

The importance of incorporation—including the importance to children—is underlined in the example that Maggie Chapman has already brought to Parliament’s attention once again of the Illegal Migration Act. That is an act that includes a ban on the right to claim asylum, allows for the prolonged detention and removal of children, creates barriers for acquiring nationality and lacks a consideration of the principle of the best interests of the child. The UK Government’s assessment of the impact of that legislation on children’s rights is simply not robust enough.

In its concluding observation, the UN committee expressed its deep concern about the potential impact of that legislation on children, for exactly the reasons that Maggie Chapman has pointed out. Although the UN committee has called on the UK Government urgently to repeal all provisions that would have the effect of violating children’s rights, we are still waiting for a response from the UK Government. That shows the limitations of what we have the powers to do in this Parliament.

That said, passing the motion today would allow us to progress a concluding observation that was directed specifically at Scotland—that is, to bring forward the amendments necessary. If the motion is passed, we can work with Parliament to consider next steps, which will, I hope, allow for Parliament to debate and vote on amendments to the bill before the end of the year, although, of course, whether to hold deliberations and how long they will take will be for Parliament and not Government to decide.

When it originally passed the bill in March 2021, the Scottish Parliament made a significant statement of intent about what its parliamentarians collectively wanted to achieve. Sadly, we cannot deliver a package of provision that fully reflects the democratic will of the Parliament. However, I know that there is a keen interest in passing the bill, not just in the Parliament or from our stakeholders, children and young people but internationally. I look forward to the day when Scotland becomes the first UK nation to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to reconsider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.


Roz McCall (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I whole-heartedly accept what the cabinet secretary has said.

I am delighted to speak on behalf of my party in this important debate on the reconsideration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. The significance of protecting and safeguarding the rights of our children is of fundamental importance to me personally and for us all. I am sure that it is no surprise to members that I will approach the debate from a child-orientated and personal angle.

Respecting and valuing the contributions that our children make in the decisions that directly impact them is a crucial part of our democracy and of society as a whole, and it is well documented that I fully support the input of young voices. Therefore, we will be supporting the Scottish Government’s motion to finally reintroduce the bill.

I make no apologies for using my short time in the Parliament to consistently stand up for the rights of all children, whether they are care experienced, struggling with their mental health or currently being failed by our education system. On many occasions, I have offered to work collaboratively with the former First Minister, the former Minister for Children and Young People and the current Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise. I stand by that and reaffirm my offer to meet any of them.

However, I would be remiss in representing the children in Scotland if I did not mention the fiasco in relation to this bill, which shows that there is a problem with the Scottish Government’s ability to legislate.

It has now been 912 days since the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the bill. The bill was backed by the Scottish Conservatives, who worked constructively and positively with all parties, because we recognised that the bill is far more important than any individual or party.

It has now also been 708 days since the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the UK Government’s challenge to the bill. The Scottish Conservatives saw that challenge coming when we warned at stage 1 that the bill must not result in endless clashes of legislation and long-lasting legal battles. I will repeat the question that was posed by my colleague Meghan Gallacher in June this year: what on earth has the Scottish Government been doing?

The truth is that, instead of making the necessary changes to the bill that the Supreme Court’s decision requires, the Scottish National Party has deliberately provoked grievance in politicising children’s rights, which I find abhorrent. I note from the cabinet secretary’s statement in June—she repeated this in her opening remarks—that,

“In drafting amendments to the compatibility duty,”

the Government has

“tried to balance three important considerations: protecting children’s rights to the maximum effect possible, minimising the risk of another Supreme Court referral and making the law as accessible as possible for users.”—[Official Report, 27 June 2023; c 21.]

Many across Scotland will be wondering whether the Scottish Government should have thought about those considerations during the initial passage of the bill. However, that being said, it is essential that the bill receives full cross-party support. My party will continue to play a constructive role in the passage of the bill.

We have a proud tradition when it comes to championing human rights, and played a key role in drafting the European convention on human rights, which was ratified in 1951. The Human Rights Act 1998 transposed the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings into domestic law. Every child, regardless of their background or circumstances, deserves the opportunity to grow, thrive and reach their full potential. The UNCRC provides a framework that serves as a beacon for our collective commitment to protect and nurture our children.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

Given the member’s clear personal commitment to the issue and the limits of what we can do within this Parliament, will she join me in encouraging the UK Government to pass the UNCRC into domestic law so that we can get to the point that she and I both seem to want, which is to give rights to children on every issue, not just in the limited way that we can do within the bill?

Roz McCall

Here we are again with—unfortunately—a similar kind of response. It is important to say that we have things that we can do, which we should be doing, and I will give support to ensure that that happens.

Let us reaffirm that the importance of children’s rights is not disputed. I will take a moment to comment on some of the convention’s articles and how they should apply here in Scotland.

Article 28, which is on the right to education, says:

“Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity and their rights.”

Article 29, which is on the goals of education, states:

“Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.”

Every child must have access to education that allows them to reach their full potential, and the Government is duty bound to ensure that that happens. To properly follow article 29, we should be raising attainment for all. References to attainment gaps—whether they relate to poverty or otherwise—run the risk of reducing achievement for our children.

The Scottish National Party’s commitment to eliminating the attainment gap has been watered down over the years. Although it has repeatedly pledged to focus on closing the gap, little substantial progress has been made. Eight years ago, the former First Minister vowed to close the attainment gap completely and, in his statement on the programme for government, the current First Minister said:

“We will continue to focus on closing the attainment gap”.—[Official Report, 5 September 2023; c 21.]

We have promise after promise, but figures show that we have had a three-year consistent reduction in attainment. Instead of closing the attainment gap, we are seeing it stagnate, whereas we should be raising attainment for all, as per article 29.

Article 24, which is on health and health services, says:

“Every child has the right to the best possible health. Governments must provide good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food, and a clean environment and education on health and well-being so that children can stay healthy.”

The delay in providing free school meals at all primary schools is a deep concern and a clear indicator of a significant policy setback. The Scottish Government made a firm commitment that every primary school student would have access to free school meals. That is a critical step in addressing child poverty and promoting equal opportunities in education. However, the reality stands in stark contrast to those promises, and we are again missing the directive that is behind the UNCRC.

Instead of delivering on the commitment in the promised timeframe, the Government is now talking about plans to expand free school meals to primary 6 and primary 7 by 2026. Expansion is a positive step, but it does not negate the fact that the Government failed to meet its initial obligations. The delay in implementation means that children who needed such support for years have gone without, and it actively promotes the stigma that is attached to child poverty when it comes to school meals.

The delay in providing free school meals, which are a fundamental support mechanism, exacerbates the crisis. It sends a message that the Government’s commitment to addressing child poverty is not as steadfast as it should be, and it raises questions about the priority that is given to our youngest citizens’ wellbeing.

As the mother of two daughters, I have tirelessly fought for their rights from the moment that they entered my life, and I will continue to do so until my last breath. The rights of the child are not up for debate; they are fundamental to our society’s wellbeing. Our world becomes a better place when we amplify the voices of our children and champion their rights. In principle, I agree with the bill and the crucial steps that it will take towards ensuring that children’s rights are recognised and protected in Scotland.


Martin Whitfield (South Scotland) (Lab)

Today, we find ourselves debating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which was initially introduced on 1 September 2020. As we just learned, the bill was passed 912 days ago, which is just shy of 30 months ago.

I very much welcome the debate. Even if the motion does not technically require a debate, I am glad that the Scottish Government has provided time to do so, because it is important that the people who sit in this chamber have the chance to explore the reasoning behind the motion and—I hope—to put out the message again that all parties still support the incorporation of the UNCRC.

On 6 October 2021, the UK Supreme Court gave its judgment. The judges unanimously decided that four sections of the bill went beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers. We were warned about that risk prior to stage 3, in correspondence from the UK Government, and at stage 3, by members in this chamber and through amendments that sought to prevent that overreach.

I have no intention of rehearsing events since October 2021, as that was covered previously, not least in my members’ business debate. Suffice to say that, from the United Nations all the way up to our young people here—and from almost every group in between—the call to the Scottish Government has been: “Get on with it. Share your ideas, and show us your plan.”

Today, we vote on whether we will reconsider the bill, which is a first for the Parliament. If it is agreed to, the motion before us will open the process that is known as reconsideration stage. As yet untested procedures are laid out that support the stage. I refer to rules 9.9 and 9.9A of standing orders, for those who are interested. Rules on what makes a valid amendment are contained in rule 9.10.5, which I feel will prove interesting in the debates that will follow. I know that, as always, we will be ably guided by those who advise the Parliament, both in the chamber and further afield.

That brings me to the body of what I wish to discuss today. I welcome the support and comments regarding the debate from those outside the chamber. They can be summed up no better than by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, who has written to MSPs, saying:

“It has taken longer than any of us would have wished for the Bill to reach this stage. That should not detract from the importance of the decisions that you will be asked to focus on now, as human rights guarantors”.

That is what we are in this chamber: we are one of the walls of human rights guarantors that young people have. As the commissioner said, we need

“to protect children’s rights in Scotland to the fullest extent possible.”

I also thank the Scottish Human Rights Commission and other organisations making up the Together alliance for their correspondence.

Although the bill is to be narrowed in scope, it will still increase protections for those who are most vulnerable. It will demonstrate to children and young people in Scotland that we will continue to uphold the commitments to them, now and into the future. The culture change that we want to happen as a result of incorporation will still be possible. More can be done in the near future to bring further devolved issues into the scope of the bill, but we can act now to secure what is possible.

As part of the programme for government, correspondence was published between the First Minister and cabinet secretaries. The correspondence to the cabinet secretary who has moved the motion said:

“You will ... bring a revised UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill back to Parliament”.

In similar correspondence to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, it was written:

“A revised UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will be brought back to the Scottish Parliament later in the year”—

that is, 2023.

I raise that because there has been secrecy over the wording of amendments to rectify the bill. I respect the cabinet secretary’s contribution and her defence of legal advice, but there has been secrecy over the wording that was anticipated. On numerous occasions, I and others, both within and outwith this place, have called on the Scottish Government to publish, share and even talk about the wording of its amendments.

Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

I thank Martin Whitfield for everything that he has done to get this issue dealt with as a matter of urgency. I share his concerns around the lack of information during the work that was undertaken by the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee. Many committee members asked for an update. We, and the Government in particular, can learn lessons from that.

Martin Whitfield

The member is, of course, right. If mistakes are made, we need to learn from them. We have an opportunity to see whether that learning will take place in the very short period that the Parliament has between now and Christmas, when the bill will, I hope, become law.

That is prescient, as the First Minister made an offer in the chamber. He said:

“to all the parties represented in this chamber, I repeat the offer that I made on becoming First Minister. You will sometimes disagree with things that we do, but, when you can, work with us. You will find that my door is always open. I have already shown my willingness to work with others in recent months.”—[Official Report, 5 September 2023; c 12.]

I understand that interim amendments have already been published in correspondence to the committee and that, if today’s motion is supported—I can confirm that Labour members will support it—they will be lodged formally on Monday, which is the right thing to do.

There is a weight of expectation that the Scottish Government will listen to advice from the organisations outside this place that speak, with authority, for young people and from experts who may propose changes to the Scottish Government amendments and there is an expectation that those in this chamber who represent young people will both have ideas and listen to those of the young people themselves.

The Scottish Government has kept the ball close since 6 October 2021. If the amended bill is to be passed by the end of this year, the Government must be open to discussion about whether the amendments will achieve the goals sought or whether other wording is needed. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s promise to work with members from all parties. The Government, and members, must listen to the committee or committees that take an interest, and it must do all that in a tight timeframe that is completely unnecessary. The time for secrecy never actually existed. From now on, the Scottish Government and the minister in charge of the bill must be transparent in their intentions and open to suggestions. This Parliament, and this Government, will not be forgiven for failing Scotland’s young people again.


Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

It gives me great pleasure to offer the support of the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the motion and for the reconsideration of a vital piece of legislation.

Why are we here? What is important about the legislation before us today? I turn to the words of my friend Bruce Adamson, the outgoing children’s commissioner, who said that the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law was

“the most important thing that we can do in legislative terms for children”.

Why is that? It is important that we in this place illustrate policy with human experience, and I do so with reference to an individual who is known to members and who once spent the night in a police cell after punching a police officer. I am sure that that is something that happens from time to time across Scotland, but what was different about this case was that the individual in question, Lynzy Hanvidge, was only 13 years old. She was arrested on the night that she was taken into care and, understandably, lashed out because she was being separated from her siblings. Her fist connected with a police officer and she then spent the night in adult prison accommodation at the age of 13.

I use her story, although she was then older than our age of criminal responsibility, which is still one of the lowest in the world, not in reference to the age of criminal responsibility but because she had no access to the justice that should have been provided to her under article 37 of the UNCRC, which is about ensuring that children who are arrested are held in suitable accommodation. No one here would suggest that compounding one adverse childhood experience of being taken into care with another of spending a night in the cells was in any way in Lynzy’s best interests, which is the test that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to children. There was no recourse to justice for Lynzy.

The journey of this bill has been a long one and predates my time in the chamber. It began with commitments in the 2011 election manifestos of several parties, including my own and that of the governing party, to bring forward a bill on the rights of children and young people. That bill was drafted and talked about incorporation of the UNCRC, but was then conflated into what we now know as the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. At several points during the work on that piece of legislation, incorporation was mooted, or was attempted via amendments, but was then dispensed with, largely because the Government felt that it would be too complicated to make public bodies, or itself, act compatibly with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Happily, we have moved forward.

There have been bumps in the road. I return to the idea of the age of criminal responsibility. I believe the Government’s credentials and its wish to make Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up in. However, it was unedifying and embarrassing when it introduced a piece of legislation to lift our arcane age of criminal responsibility from eight to the de minimis position of 12 yet, during consideration of that bill, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child further increased the international floor to 14. We fell short of that, and we are still behind Russia and China on the rights that we afford to children who are suspected of a crime and on the age at which we hold them responsible. You cannot lead the world on human rights from the back of the pack.

We have heard many times about the stipulations of the court and the court judgment. There was no dispute that the Parliament can incorporate a UN convention such as the UNCRC into Scots law. That is a helpful and important precedent, because it paves the way for other conventions to be incorporated into Scots law, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and I hope that similar legislation will be introduced on those.

The judgment referred to four provisions. Those provisions were clear, but they were also simple and the judgment should not have been a surprise. Several members raised concerns that there might be a lack of compatibility with the strictures of devolution based on those points. There is even a suggestion that that was communicated to the Scottish Government in advance of stages 2 and 3 but it still pressed ahead. Had we known that that would have resulted in such a delay, the Scottish Parliament would have taken steps at those stages to make sure that the legislation was compatible. I hope that that was not done deliberately on the altar of grievance to necessitate a constitutional fight. I echo Martin Whitfield’s well-made points about how we should proceed by looking at the amendments and including the voices of the people whom the legislation will affect.

It is important that I reflect that my chairmanship of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) was very much focused on how we get the UNCRC incorporated into Scots law in a living way that is meaningful to the people at the business end—the children of Scotland. As I said earlier, we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up in, and I hope that everybody in the Parliament shares that laudable ambition of the Scottish Government. It has had that ambition for the 16 years for which the SNP has been in power but, up to this point, we are not much closer to realising that ambition.

I will finish by resting on the words of the person who I mentioned at the start of my speech this afternoon. Bruce Adamson, the outgoing children’s commissioner, said:

“Every day of delay is a failure to properly respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights. This bill was approved by parliament, but the prevarication and delay is robbing children of the protections they are entitled to.”

He was talking about Lynzy Hanvidge and many other thousands of children who, every day, find themselves being wronged by public bodies, public institutions and acts of the Parliament. As he said,

“Every day of delay is a failure”,

and there have been nearly 1,000 days since the Parliament passed the bill unanimously. It is time that we brought an end to that delay and made rights real for Scotland’s children.


Shirley-Anne Somerville

I thank members for their contributions. A number of members rightly and understandably have pointed to the amount of time that has passed before we reached this stage. During that time, we have been looking at the options to ensure maximum effective coverage. We could have taken a variety of ways that could have given us more coverage, but they ran the risk of legal challenges and made the bill exceptionally complicated, to the point at which it might genuinely have become unworkable, particularly for the children and young people whose rights we want to ensure are protected.

We have an obligation to continue to point out where the gaps in provision are, particularly because of the changes that we have to make because of the Supreme Court judgment. I fully respect the Supreme Court judgment and our requirement to do so.

Roz McCall talked about some issues surrounding education. I will not get into the more political aspects of her speech, but I will say that, because of the changes that we have to make, a number of important education acts no longer fall under the scope of the bill. I am afraid that that proves the point about why it was necessary to take some time to see whether more could be done to get a workable piece of legislation that incorporated as many acts as possible. Ms McCall might call that politicisation, but I call it a statement of fact about where we have got to.

I have provided a solution, which is the UK Government itself incorporating the UNCRC. It is unfortunate that we cannot come together, collectively as a Parliament, around that proposal. It is not political to say that we want to protect all children’s rights, not just those that we will be able to protect under the proposed act.

A number of members have talked about the process that led us to this stage. I do not want to go over that in too much detail. We do not have time for that, and I do not think that it would be helpful for me to do that, because I am keen to move forward. However, for the record, no amendments that were lodged at stage 3 would have covered the Supreme Court judgment. It is not a correct analysis to say that there was something on the table at that point that would have allowed us to progress.

Martin Whitfield

This is quite mischievous, but the issue was the stage 3 amendments that took the bill beyond the powers of this Parliament, rather than stage 3 amendments that might have pulled it back within the Parliament’s powers.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The debate was had and members voted on the bill as amended.

We are now at the point of reconsideration. This is a brand-new process for the Parliament. Although certain aspects are covered by standing orders, it would be fair to say that there are certain aspects on which the Parliament is free to roam. I look forward to working with the Parliament and with the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee in whichever way they decide that they want to proceed.

We have been working with stakeholders for a long time on the possibility of amendments. Until recently, there were a number of options on the table. In June, I announced to the chamber the options that we would go forward with, and we worked with stakeholders on the detail of those options before formal drafting took place in the Government. I have no interest in secrecy on this matter, and there would be no benefit to it. I am not aware—I am sure that members will correct me if I am wrong—of having turned down any proposals for meetings from members to discuss the issue. As the First Minister has said, in general, my door is always open to those who wish to discuss this matter.

I want to conclude by thanking the most important people who are involved in the process—the children and young people who have continued to campaign for the bill and to highlight the challenges that still exist to ensure that their rights are protected. I am immensely proud of, for example, the children and young people who represented Scotland in Geneva in May as part as the regular scrutiny of the UK by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In its questions to the delegation, it is clear that that committee reflected the issues that those children and young people raised with it.

I am also very grateful to the children and young people who have met the Cabinet and the executive team over the years. We all owe them a degree of hard work and concentration on the bill so that they can be reassured that the act that we emerge with at the end of the process will protect their rights to the maximum extent possible under the devolution settlement.

There will be a short pause before we move to the next item of business to allow front-bench teams to change position, should they so wish.