SOCIAL justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has challenged the UK Government to adopt a key international agreement on children’s rights as she confirmed changes will be made to legislation to allow it to be introduced in Scotland.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) bill was passed unanimously by MSPs but blocked by the Supreme Court after a challenge by UK ministers.

In an update to Holyrood, Sommerville said changes will be brought forward after the parliamentary recess which will mean public authorities will only be required to comply with the UNCRC requirements when delivering duties under powers in an act of the Scottish Parliament.

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She told Holyrood that this is the only way to minimise the risk of a further referral to the Supreme Court, while also minimising the complexity for those using the legislation.

However she also called for the UK Government to adopt the convention into UK law as the “simplest way” to secure children’s rights.

Somerville said: “These proposals will result in a bill that provides valuable protections for children’s rights and that does so in a way that is legally sound and is clear for users.

“It will also allow us to begin our journey to legislate for children's rights and wider human rights and provide a solid legal foundation on which to build in the future. That would become easier if there was political commitment in Whitehall to legislate for children’s rights.

“Once again we find the democratic will of this Parliament blocked by Westminster. It remains true that the simplest way to secure protection for children’s rights, in Scotland and across the UK, and to do so as fully as possible, is for the UK Government to incorporate the UNCRC into UK law.”

The National:

Responding to the statement to MSPs, Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said she was becoming “increasingly annoyed” by the government’s “inability to legislate”.

She said: “It has been 834 days since the UNCRC bill was passed in this parliament, 630 days since the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the UK Government’s challenge to the bill.

“That’s 630 days for this government to decide whether or not to write a letter to the UK Government about the UNCRC bill. No wonder nothing gets done in this place.

“Instead of making the necessary changes to this bill, the SNP have deliberately provoked grievance, have continued to politicise children’s rights, have played constitutional games and have prioritised a debate on independence this afternoon.”

She added: “We still don’t know when this bill will come back to parliament, what on earth has this government been doing?”

However Sommerville responded that she presumed Gallacher did not understand the process that the reconsideration of the legislation would have to go through.

She said: “It must go through the parliamentary authorities step and I am not in charge of that part, Meghan Gallacher.

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“We are absolutely determined to bring this back to the chamber at the earliest opportunity after the summer recess once it is passed through the parliamentary authorities, the timetable of which I cannot fix.”

She said she hoped there would be progress and the ability of the bill to be “worked through before Christmas”, but said it would be subject to the parliamentary process and its timetable.

She went on: “And I am becoming increasingly annoyed about our inability to protect children’s rights within this parliament – that is what annoys me about this process and the reason we have taken time to look at this is to see how we can have the maximum protection possible for our children and young people.”