WESTMINSTER has not covered itself in glory over the past year, especially in relation to Scotland and Brexit. Holyrood has been – and been seen as being – more democratic, fair and sensible, at least when viewed from north of the Border.

And yet, there is another, largely unknown Scottish “Parliament” that has quietly undertaken important work meriting greater support and praise – our Children’s Parliament (CP). The breadth and depth of its efforts help to raise awareness and promote the human rights of children; reduce inequalities; foster social justice; and, increase Scotland’s chances of becoming a brilliant place for all children to grow up.

Children’s Parliament’s achievements are documented at www.childrensparliament.org.uk/. The website also offers the opportunity for those who actively share and support its goals to become an “Unfeartie”, a name given to individuals who are courageous in discussing children’s issues, are making a difference in children’s lives, and who are willing to speak up for, and stand alongside, children.

Ironically, and sadly, Children’s Parliament’s accomplishments generate considerable interest and accolades internationally, while remaining largely under the radar in our own nation.

For instance, through Children’s Parliament, Scotland was one of only six countries highlighted at the UN’s international conference in Geneva on children’s human rights – and CP had a key role in planning and moderating the subsequent global gathering this September.

Similarly, these young Scots were featured at the recent Eurochild conference in Croatia. The vice-chair of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child singled out Children’s Parliament by stating: “This is what effective participation looks like. This what we’re trying to get governments to understand and to do.”

After “only” 21 years, CP’s value is starting to be recognised at home. Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) – all primary school students – recently met with the Scottish Cabinet. From East Lothian to Aberdeen, as well as from Glasgow to the Western Isles, CP has combined children’s art and direct civic engagement to advance community planning.

It has also solicited children’s perspectives (in a more than “tick box” manner) and interjected these young people’s recommendations into national policy forums.

It has taken more than two decades for Children’s Parliament to achieve success. It is a uniquely Scottish innovation and a good news story. Even now, however, national media attention remains all but non-existent, while public investment in CP is still minimal.

Why? One reason is the discomfort some people and policymakers feel about the whole concept of children’s rights or children as human rights defenders. The 1989 UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child is a cornerstone of CP’s work.

The UNCRC explicitly reinforces the primacy of the family, the importance of parents and the role of government. Yet, some adults and agencies continue to feel threatened by the (false) prospect of “the inmates running the asylum”.

Simultaneously, others dismiss primary school-aged children as cute, but too immature, ill-informed and inexperienced to have anything valuable to say, or meaningful to do, in the real world.

Children are, in essence, thought of as “potential people”, rather than capable contributors having insights and ideas worth taking seriously here and now.

Scottish political and professional rhetoric in favour of human/children’s rights has now become ubiquitous – especially by seeking children’s views and voices. And yet, a comprehensive, rights-based approach remains patchy and only superficially honoured in practice. By inculcating a human rights perspective in children (and among the adults entrusted to nurture and assist them), CP is at the forefront of encouraging a “sense of agency” among Scotland’s children.

Such empowerment will inform their decisions and improve their actions – on everything from parenthood to politics -- throughout their lives.

Whatever the eventual outcomes of current tensions between Westminster and Holyrood, Scotland will inevitably need a new generation of confident, civic-minded, creative and competent citizens.

Children’s Parliament should be treated as crucial to a rights-respecting, progressive nation. It deserves to be a well-kent treasure, rather than a well-kept secret.

Dr Jonathan Sher is Deputy Director of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS), and is writing as a Trustee of Children’s Parliament