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Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 24, 2022


European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is a statement by John Swinney on next steps with the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. The Deputy First Minister will take questions at the end of his statement and so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery (John Swinney)

On 6 October, the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. When I updated Parliament that day, I explained that comprehending the implications of the judgment would require careful consideration. I also committed to keeping Parliament updated as and when I could.

Since the Supreme Court’s judgment, I have made clear that I remain committed to incorporation of the UNCRC to the fullest extent possible and that, to allow incorporation of the UNCRC as soon as is practicable, our preference is to address the Supreme Court’s judgment by returning the UNCRC bill to Parliament via the reconsideration stage.

I reassured Parliament that, although the European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill was a member’s bill, the Scottish Government remained committed to supporting the bill and would work closely with Mark Ruskell, as the designated member in charge, to support him in taking forward the next steps.

I have also been open about my attempts, since receiving the judgment, to engage with the Secretary of State for Scotland to explore potential routes to increasing the effectiveness of incorporation of the UNCRC. Regrettably, the secretary of state has made it clear that he is unwilling to address the issues with the devolution settlement that have impacted on our ability to do that.

Members will be aware that the Supreme Court judgement had implications regarding the application of the UNCRC to United Kingdom legislation that predates devolution but that is now within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, such the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. Although that legislation relates to our own children, in our own schools and our own country, it is Westminster legislation, so we cannot, following the Supreme Court judgment, apply the UNCRC to it. That is the ludicrous constitutional position that Scotland finds itself in.

Our approach to the UK Government also included steps that could be taken to ensure that all legislation on devolved matters is brought efficiently within the scope of the UNCRC bill, without altering the devolution settlement.

The secretary of state has now made it clear that he is unwilling to explore even standard Scotland Act 1998 order options, which are within the current devolution settlement. Members will form their own views, but I cannot see how that is consistent with the secretary of state’s comments in October, when he committed

“to engage constructively with the Scottish Government to ensure relevant issues that may arise are addressed at the earliest possible stage.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 20 October 2021; Vol 701, c 48WS.]

The UK Government has refused to countenance expanding the devolution settlement to allow for full incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law. It has also refused to take steps to support incorporation of the UNCRC into areas that are wholly devolved. At every stage of the process, it has acted as a barrier to this Parliament legislating to protect the rights of children in Scotland.

Having exhausted those pragmatic options with the UK Government, I am now in a position to update Parliament on what we consider is necessary to fix the bills. I am grateful to the Presiding Officer and the Parliamentary Bureau for making time for this statement today.

When the UNCRC bill was unanimously passed in March 2021, Parliament came together to make a significant statement of intent about who we are and what we collectively seek to achieve as parliamentarians for the people of Scotland. That was a landmark moment in the Scottish Parliament’s history.

The intent behind the bill was to deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. As passed, the bill would require all of Scotland’s public authorities to take proactive steps to ensure the protection of children’s rights in their service delivery, and it would make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the UNCRC requirements as set out in the bill. Children, young people and their representatives would have a new ability to use the courts to enforce their rights.

On 12 April, the United Kingdom Government referred four provisions of the bill to the Supreme Court. They were section 6, which makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with the UNCRC requirements; section 19, which creates an obligation to interpret legislation compatibly with the UNCRC requirements in so far as it is possible to do so; the section 20 remedial power to allow a court to strike down certain legislation that is found to be incompatible with the UNCRC requirements; and section 21, which allows a court to declare certain legislation to be incompatible with the UNCRC requirements. The Supreme Court’s judgment was that aspects of each of those sections were outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The referral also covered the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. That bill aimed to strengthen the status and standing of local government by incorporating the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots law. Starting as a member’s bill, it, too, was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and was supported by the Scottish Government and by local government through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The bill was intended to develop and further strengthen the relationship between the Scottish Government and local government in Scotland, so ensuring that priorities and policies are developed and delivered in partnership. The Supreme Court’s judgment was that section 4, which creates an obligation to interpret legislation compatibly with the requirements of the charter in so far as it is possible to do so, and section 5, which gives the courts the power to declare legislation to be incompatible with the charter, were outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament for the same reasons that applied to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

In my statement on 6 October, I expressed my disappointment that the court’s judgment could potentially limit the aspirations that were agreed to by this Parliament. The judgment made plain that we are constitutionally prohibited from enacting legislation that this Parliament unanimously decided was right for Scotland. We have, however, fully respected and carefully considered the implications of the judgment. We will now begin engagement with key stakeholders on what we believe are necessary changes to the bill at reconsideration stage to address the judgment, and we will support Mark Ruskell in doing the same for the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

To address the judgment in relation to section 6 of the UNCRC bill, it is clear that we need to expressly limit the compatibility duty to devolved functions and devolved bodies. We also need to include in the bill a provision that is equivalent to section 6(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998 so that public authorities cannot be found to have acted incompatibly where the underlying primary legislation cannot be read in a compatible way.

To address the judgment on the judicial remedies in both bills, we need to remove UK acts from the application of the interpretative obligation, the strike-down power and the incompatibility declarator power.

This is a disappointing dilution of the effect of the bills. The Supreme Court judgment means that this Parliament’s power to give the courts remedial powers is limited by the mere fact that existing statutory provision happens to be in an act of the Westminster Parliament, even when they concern matters on which the Scottish Parliament could and frequently does legislate.

To be clear, the judgment does not prevent the Scottish Parliament from amending or repealing legislation in devolved areas in an act of either our Parliament or the UK Parliament. Where we need to take action to ensure that legislation in devolved areas is UNCRC compliant, that power will be available to us. As a Parliament that has, across all political parties, demonstrated its commitment to the UNCRC bill, I hope and expect that we will exercise that power whenever we need to. However, a simpler and faster route to remedy would have been for the courts to have access to the judicial remedies for all legislation in devolved areas, including UK acts.

There will now be three weeks of engagement with key stakeholders, including with children and young people and COSLA. For the UNCRC bill, the purpose of that engagement will be to ensure that those who have lobbied passionately for it understand the changes that are being made and why. It will also help us to understand any concerns that need to be aired during reconsideration stage.

On the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, we will engage extensively with Mark Ruskell to explain the changes that we think are necessary and support him in taking his bill forward.

Following that engagement, I will update the relevant parliamentary committees before amendments are lodged. We will liaise with the parliamentary authorities about the timescale for reconsideration stage, recognising that we need to make sufficient time to engage with the Parliament on the substance of our proposals.

We will also engage with the United Kingdom Government, given the UK law officers’ power under the Scotland Act 1998 to refer a reconsidered bill to the Supreme Court.

It is regrettable that the UNCRC bill and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill have been delayed and will not become law in the form that our Parliament agreed. I reassure the Parliament that, although the UNCRC bill has been delayed, work in relation to the implementation of the UNCRC has continued at pace. That includes building the capacity for public authorities to take a child’s rights-based approach to the delivery of services, and ensuring that children, young people and their families are aware of and understand the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I am delighted that we can move forward with legislation to build a Scotland that values the unique role of local government and in which a respect for human rights anchors our society and the institutions that govern and deliver public services for the people of Scotland—especially the young people of Scotland.

The Presiding Officer

The Deputy First Minister will now take questions on the issues that were raised in his statement. I intend to allow around 20 minutes for that, after which we will move on to the next item of business. I would be grateful if members who wished to ask a question were to press their request-to-speak buttons.

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

I thank the Deputy First Minister for advance sight of his statement.

Following the ruling by the Supreme Court, both bills have been left in limbo for months. As the Deputy First Minister concluded, I hope that we will now see movement on the legislation and on Parliament’s ability to enact it. The UK Government and the Office of the Advocate General for Scotland have reached out to the Deputy First Minister on a number of occasions to try to speed up the process, and they stand ready to engage and to help the Scottish Government in taking forward workable amendments to bring the bill within the legislative competence of our Parliament.

Previously, the Deputy First Minister stated that this is urgent, and I hope, genuinely, that we will see how the Parliament can be fully included in developing the amendments that are needed to make the bills legally competent. I therefore ask the Deputy First Minister about something that was not included in his statement: when will ministers set out a timetable for the bill to be brought back to the Parliament and for that committee process to start?

The European Charter for Local Self-Government seeks to protect the powers of local government. That is something on which I think we all agree and that, when we passed the bill, we supported. What assessment will ministers now make of the impact of the Scottish Government’s proposed national care service and the removal of powers from local government, when the bill on that is passed?

John Swinney

I am grateful to Miles Briggs for his points. The idea that the United Kingdom Government and the Office of the Advocate General for Scotland “reached out” is an interesting observation on my statement. I made it clear that there was complete inflexibility from the United Kingdom Government on those questions, and no willingness to use the existing Scotland Act orders arrangements in order to expedite those issues.

I thought that it was reasonable for me to approach the United Kingdom Government, given that the Parliament had unanimously passed the legislation. I did not think that it was in my gift, essentially, to undermine the legislation that the Parliament had passed. I therefore sought an understanding from the UK Government, to get it to a position of respecting the will of this Parliament, and it has refused to do so. If, as Miles Briggs describes it, the conduct of the UK Government over the past few months has been a reaching out, I would hate to see what outright hostility looks like.

On the question of the involvement of the Parliament, this is the first bill that will have had to go through a reconsideration stage, so we are in new territory. It is not in the gift of the Government to specify to the Parliament what a reconsideration stage looks like, so we will engage with the parliamentary authorities, through the Parliamentary Bureau and the committees, to make sure that we undertake that scrutiny as effectively as we can. Obviously, I want to move quickly, but I have to be mindful of the requirements of parliamentary scrutiny, so those will be the parameters that we work within.

On the point about the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the national care service, Parliament has passed the bill and any future legislation that the Government brings forward must be compatible with that.

Michael Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the Government for advance sight of the statement. We on the Labour benches are glad that we are now dealing with the reality of the situation, and I give the Deputy First Minister the assurance that the Labour Party will engage to ensure that the reconsideration stage is dealt with at pace, so that we can finally get the legislation commenced.

That the Conservative Government is recalcitrant is beyond question, but we believe that the events of the past year beg some serious self-examination from Scottish ministers. On 4 March 2021, the UK Government informed the Deputy First Minister of its interpretation of the legal position. Nothing was told to this Parliament and the legislation passed, amid great fanfare, on 16 March.

The real common ground found in Parliament was that the children of Scotland deserve so much better than they currently get. Savage cuts to education funding for the poorest and scandalous waiting times for mental health contravene the rights-based approach that this Government purports to uphold. The use of Mosquito devices to disperse children breaches articles 2, 3, 15, 19 and 31 of the UNCRC. What time have ministers found, amid the constitutional wrangling, to act on those issues, which are harming Scottish children every day?

John Swinney

I welcome the assurance from Mr Marra that the Labour Party will work with us on undertaking this work expeditiously, and I have committed to doing exactly that.

It is very interesting that Mr Marra describes the events of the past year or so as “constitutional wrangling”. Parliament unanimously passed a bill that Parliament believed was necessary to protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland. I do not think that Parliament should be cowed from its aspirations by the UK Government. I think that Parliament should be bold in its aspirations and I think that Mr Marra probably agrees that Parliament should not in any way be inhibited from making the boldest possible commitments. I am sure that he and I agree about protecting the rights of children and young people in Scotland.

If Parliament wants to take a maximalist position to give that protection, I do not think that it should be inhibited from doing that, but we are now inhibited because the UK Government has intervened. I have spent a number of months trying to find pragmatic ways of getting the UK Government to accept a fairly basic reality, which is best expressed as follows.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is an act that we are empowered to revise, but under the Supreme Court judgment, we cannot do that through the UNCRC bill. The Supreme Court judgment says that the 1980 act is an act of the Westminster Parliament, and, because of the Westminster sovereignty principle, we cannot put that legislation into this framework. I have simply tried to find a pragmatic way to enable that to happen, because that is what Parliament wanted and legislated for. I have just been trying to protect the interests of Parliament, and it is not part of my duty—[Interruption.]

I am not sure what is going on on the Conservative benches—

They do not care about this Parliament.

John Swinney

No, they do not care.

I do not believe that this Parliament should be trampled over by the UK Government. That is why I have been doing what I have been doing. That is my self-examination analysis complete.

As for some of the other measures that Mr Marra talked about, this Government is doing a lot to address the circumstances of children and young people in our country. Doubling the child payment and extending it even further is one of the strongest things that we can do to support the human rights of children and young people in Scotland.

Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee City West) (SNP)

In session 5, the Equalities and Human Rights Committee unanimously recommended that Parliament agree to the general principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, and I welcome the cabinet secretary’s renewed commitment to implementing the UNCRC to the fullest extent possible. That really matters to Scotland’s children and young people. Can the cabinet secretary say more about the discussions with the UK Government on routes to ensure the effectiveness of incorporation beyond those that are currently available to this Parliament, so that all legislation within the competence of this Parliament can be meaningfully made subject to international human rights standards?

John Swinney

Essentially, I put two propositions to the United Kingdom Government: that the devolution settlement could be altered to offer the Scottish Parliament additional routes to increase the effectiveness of incorporation and that the standard Scotland Act 1998 orders could be used to allow us to bring UK acts in devolved areas within the scope of the bill. Both propositions were ruled out, and we will now proceed to the reconsideration stage. I suspect that the committee that Mr FitzPatrick now convenes may well be involved in that, but that will, of course, be a matter for us to discuss with the parliamentary authorities. I look forward to engaging with the relevant committees on that question.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I can confirm that, as the member who is now in charge of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, I will seek a reconsideration stage to ensure that the work of Mr Wightman, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Parliament as a whole is not lost.

The Deputy First Minister made a clear commitment to work closely with stakeholders on amendments to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. Will he also make a commitment that he will work with me and with stakeholders—COSLA, in particular—on the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and that we will have a meeting sooner rather than later to discuss the shape of some of the amendments that might be lodged and what the options might be?

John Swinney

I am very happy to confirm my willingness to do that.

A really important parliamentary point is that, at the reconsideration stage, the issues that emerged out of the Supreme Court judgment need to be looked at very tightly. It is not a reconsideration of the whole bill or its principles; it is a reconsideration of the issues at stake in the judgment. I have applied a very tight judgment to that in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, and I will take the same approach in relation to the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. However, I am very happy to engage with stakeholders and with Mr Ruskell to ensure that he is well supported in bringing forward the appropriate measures to Parliament.

Meghan Gallacher (Central Scotland) (Con)

The Scottish Government’s legal experts no doubt warned the Deputy First Minister that the bills were not compliant with UK law, so why did the Scottish National Party choose to push forward with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill anyway?

John Swinney

I know that Meghan Gallacher was not a member of the Scottish Parliament when that bill was passed, but her Conservative colleagues—every single one of them—voted in favour of it. It looks as though Conservative Party members are trying to suggest that they did things only because I told them that they were the right things to do. I generally do not think that I command such influence. However, if that is now the scope of my influence over the Conservative Party, the prospects for it are improving no end from the doldrums that it was in.

Members of the Scottish Parliament looked at that bill and it was thoroughly scrutinised by all of them. As I said in answer to Mr Marra’s question, Parliament wanted to have the most ambitious set of provisions in place to protect children and young people. The Conservative Party is now running away from a commitment that it made only a little while ago, which is a terrible indictment of the Conservative Party.

Elena Whitham (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

What can the Scottish Government do to ensure that local democracy is upheld and supported in the light of the absurd constitutional position that Scotland finds itself in within the devolved settlement, which sees our will thwarted, specifically on the basis that the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill sought to strengthen local government by incorporating the European charter into Scots law, that the bill was passed unanimously in the Parliament and that it was supported by the Scottish Government and local government through COSLA’s community wellbeing board, as well as leaders’ decisions in the previous council term?

John Swinney

Obviously, the bill gives us many abilities to protect the position of local government in Scotland. We will seek to make the necessary remedies to ensure that the bill is compliant so that it can come into effect and achieve the objectives that Elena Whitham has set out.

Of course, there are other measures that the Government can take to support the position of local government in Scotland. The Government will engage with the leadership of COSLA when the local authority administrations and the new leadership of COSLA are in place. Elena Whitham has significant, formidable experience of exercising such authority over many years of service in local government and in COSLA.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Would the Deputy First Minister like to confirm that the Scottish Government knew that there were issues with both bills but did not respect MSPs enough to tell us about them before we voted for those bills in Parliament? The Deputy First Minister says that he is “delighted” that we can now make progress, but is it not the case that we could have progressed both bills, transforming children’s lives and empowering local government, through agreeing to amendments at stage 3 last year had the SNP not preferred a constitutional falling out and delays to both of those pieces of vital legislation?

John Swinney

Just as we are seeing in several local authority chambers around the country, the Labour Party is being enthusiastically supported by the Conservatives. I am lost for words at the question that Sarah Boyack has just put to me. I thought that people like Sarah Boyack were interested in maximising the protection for children and young people in Scotland—we should not be trampled over by the UK Government in doing that.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

On the back of that question, does the Deputy First Minister hope, as I do, that the cross-party spirit that led to the initial unanimous passing of the bills can be found again as the Parliament tries as hard as it can, within its current powers, to legislate in favour of our having a world-leading status of which we can all be proud in relation to the rights of children and the empowerment of local democracy?

John Swinney

I hope that that is the case. When Parliament considered the bills, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill—I was more closely involved with that than with the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill—we had extensive evidence taking throughout the full parliamentary process. Indeed, Mr MacGregor may have been on the committee that scrutinised the bill.

It was very clear that Parliament wanted to take the maximal position, and I was enthusiastic about that. That was the proposition that I put to Parliament, and Parliament appeared to be very supportive of that objective. Therefore, legislating to the maximum extent possible is a critical part of the contents of the bill. I want to ensure that, at the reconsideration stage, we maintain as much of that protection as we possibly can while satisfying the legislative competence requirements placed on us by the conclusions in the Supreme Court judgment.

Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

People expect our two Governments to be able to work together, but, to be frank, that relationship has been atrocious for years. The responsibility for that lies with both Governments, and pointing the finger does not help. Meanwhile, children and local communities have lost out.

Given that there was nothing new in today’s statement, why has it taken so long for the Government to start another consultation with stakeholders? Why was it not done months ago?

John Swinney

Mr Rennie talks about the relationship between the Governments. I have put on record today, as dispassionately as I possibly can, the comments of the secretary of state, who told the House of Commons in October that he was ready to

“engage constructively with the Scottish Government to ensure relevant issues that may arise are addressed at the earliest possible stage.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 20 October 2021; Vol 701, c 48WS.]

In my answer to Joe FitzPatrick, I set out two propositions that I put to the secretary of state, both of which were rejected. They were attempts by me to ensure that the will of the Parliament was protected. The secretary of state has essentially vetoed that, and I regret that very much.

I will have to bring a reconsideration proposition to Parliament that will restrict what Parliament passed in the spring of 2021. I regret that. However, I certainly did not think that it was in my gift to do that without exhausting the dialogue with the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has not been interested in engaging in that dialogue. I hope that the secretary of state and the office of the Advocate General will engage with us constructively in the advice that is required to ensure that the bills are compliant in the next period. I will update Parliament on that.

Mr Rennie says that there was nothing new in my statement, but I set out to Parliament the legislative changes that I will make, and it is the first time that I have done that. I did not want to do that earlier because I did not want to give up on the possibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland saying, “With these changes, you can keep your bill the way it is.” That is the explanation.

It is obvious that there has to be adequate consultation in Parliament, and we will engage with the parliamentary authorities to do all that and to minimise the impact of the changes on the bill.

Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Despite the wholly unnecessary obstacles that were put in the way of full UNCRC incorporation, Scotland is today a good place in which to raise a child safely and happily. Will the Deputy First Minister assure the Parliament that the interventions of the UK Government have not undermined and will not undermine the will of the Scottish Government to adhere to our shared vision of reinforcing the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to?

John Swinney

I agree whole-heartedly with the statements that Ruth Maguire makes and that it is important to ensure that, in two respects, we live up to the very high ambition that she sets out. First, the Parliament should be prepared to change legislation when we do not believe that it lives up to those aspirations—for example, if there are provisions in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 that we do not believe are UNCRC compliant, we can legislate to change it and should be prepared to do so. Secondly, the way in which we exercise our wider policy responsibilities—I am thinking particularly about the work on getting it right for every child—is fundamental to ensuring that the aspirations that Ruth Maguire sets out are lived up to. I give that commitment to Parliament.

Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

There is a danger that the Deputy First Minister is trying to rewrite history. Does he agree that, at stage 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, two amendments were lodged that would have made the bill legally compliant? If the Scottish Government wants to protect our children, why does he not simply bring those two amendments to the chamber today and get cross-party support to get the bill passed, instead of spending time debating things that he knows cannot happen under law?

John Swinney

I am not doing that; I am offering Parliament a resolution to an issue and a difficulty that has arisen out of Parliament’s unanimous support for a bill. It is not a bill that just my colleagues voted for; every member voted for it. I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to undermine the unanimous will of Parliament as expressed by the legislation that we have put in place.

We will bring forward the reconsideration stage. Mr Balfour says that it should all be done this afternoon, but if I said that it was all going to be done this afternoon, Stephen Kerr would be on his feet saying that there was not enough time for us to do it all, that we were railroading Parliament and all the rest of it. We will take the necessary time to discuss these issues with the parliamentary authorities and will lodge the necessary amendments.

Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

Far from being about constitutional wrangling, this is about the rights of children. Accidents disproportionately impact children from more deprived backgrounds, making accident prevention a social justice imperative. The UNCRC contains provisions that are directly linked to accident prevention. Article 19 outlines the right to protection from harm, and article 24 more specifically includes the right to accessible information in support of the prevention of accidents. What possible reasons are there for denying the rights of children under those articles, and what measures is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that accident prevention and children’s safety are a priority?

John Swinney

The whole focus of the UNCRC incorporation bill is to proactively establish an approach in public authorities and public bodies in Scotland that is about protecting the rights of children. It is vital that such a culture is created as a consequence of the legislation, and the obligations that the bill places on public bodies are exactly the type of obligations that will enable the aspirations that Clare Adamson put to me to be fulfilled as a consequence of the legislation.

I assure Clare Adamson that much of the preparatory work has already been undertaken, but we will be able to reinforce that with the passing of the bill. There will, of course, be legal remedies available to a range of different people around the country should they feel that those rights are not fully enacted in existing legislation and not protected by the UNCRC bill.

That concludes questions on the ministerial statement.

Miles Briggs

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. This will be the first time that Parliament will undertake a reconsideration stage of a bill, and I do not believe that any member wants to see the Scottish Government setting the parameters for that. Could you advise members of what process will be developed to enable all MSPs across the Parliament to influence the bill?

Secondly, could you look at the publication of the Parliament’s legal advice, which the Presiding Officer at the time received, on the legislation and its competence when it was originally passed?

Sorry, Mr Briggs—could you repeat your second point?

Miles Briggs

It is about the publication of the Parliament’s legal advice, which the Presiding Officer at the time received and which pointed to the legal competence of the legislation when Parliament was considering it. Would that advice be published?

The Presiding Officer

Legal advice is not shared, for very good reasons.

With regard to Mr Briggs’s point on the reconsideration stage, clarity will be provided for all members. The matter will be discussed at the Parliamentary Bureau and all members will be notified accordingly to enable them to fully take part in any scrutiny.

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. So as not to disappoint the Deputy First Minister, if it is your judgment that further time should be allowed for questions to be put to the Deputy First Minister, under rule 8.14.3 of standing orders, would you consider extending the time for questions? A precedent was set by the ministerial statement on Dr Gray’s maternity unit in Moray just a few months ago.

The time that was set aside today was agreed by the Parliamentary Bureau. Therefore, we will move on to the next item of business. There will be a short pause before we do so.