Humanists call for bold action on children’s rights in Scotland

May 24, 2022

Today John Swinney MSP made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the future of the UNCRC bill after it was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. Humanist Society Scotland have championed the UNCRC and the UN committee on the rights of the child and have questioned why progress has been glacial on reforms highlighted to be needed by the committee.

In 2016 Humanist Society Scotland brought a legal challenge on the requirement for children and young people to attend compulsory religious worship during the school day. This requirement had been criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as far back as 2016. The UNCRC bill could have made allowing young people the right to opt out a legal requirement.

The current legal position on religious worship in school has also been criticised by the Children and Young Peoples Commissioner for Scotland.

Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, Fraser Sutherland, said:

In today’s statement to Parliament John Swinney said he wanted to be ‘bold’ on children’s rights. However the deputy first minister has been anything but bold. He has continually kicked the can down the path on stopping compulsory religious worship in schools – first as Education Secretary and now as Deputy First Minister. Both the United Nations and the Scottish children’s rights Commissioner have told the government to take action years ago.
Six years on from the UN’s last report on children’s rights in Scotland calling for urgent action nothing has changed. A whole six year secondary school generation has been completed with no action on this flagrant freedom of belief right breach. There can be no more delay on children’s rights and urgent action is now needed to end compulsory religious worship during school hours.

Fraser Sutherland, Humanist Society Scotland

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