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18 November 2015

Good Afternoon Colleagues,

Can I begin this Afternoon by sharing how pleased I am to be here at this, my first meeting of the Cross Party Group on Children and Young People, as the new Chair of Scotland’s Youth Parliament. I’m even more pleased to be able to introduce the CPG to the continued work of the Scottish Youth Parliament and in particular our unwavering commitment to the realization of Children and Young Peoples Rights, and indeed ensuring their voices are heard. I am particularly pleased to be here for the launch of the CPG’s Child Rights Manifesto, which, I sincerely hope, will provide an invaluable focus on this crucial issue in the build up to the elections in May.

However, before all of that – I’d like to re-introduce the Scottish Youth Parliament to Members. The Scottish Youth Parliament is the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s Young People made up of 160 Elected MSYPs serving young people in every Constituency in every Scottish Local Authority and indeed representatives of National Voluntary Organisations too. Our Youth Parliament is one which has the rights agenda at the very core of all of it’s work, and in it’s Youth Led Structure I would argue that it is an organisation which enshrines Article 12 of the UNCRC in everything it does.

Our organisation serves to ensure that all decisions that are taken that impact on Young People or indeed their futures reflect the views of Young People – and we continue to champion their voices and their views in all that we do – to help deliver a better future for all of Scotland’s Young People.

It’s my privilege therefore that our friend the Children and Young Peoples Commissioner for Scotland, Tam Baillie extended an invitation to myself and my Board – to be the key hosts for a visit to Scotland by the Vice Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Ms. Amal Aldosseri in September this year, as the elected voice of all of Scotland’s Children and Young People.

If you will indulge me, I’m keen to share with this Cross Party Group, just a flavour of the fantastic visits, which my colleagues and I along with the Vice Chairperson made to both Glasgow and Fife.

We undertook visits to a host of environments working with and around Children and Young People during the Vice Chairpersons visit.

From visiting the Children’s Parliament in Falkland, to Kirkland’s High School in Fife and on to the Fife Youth Arts Hub in Kirkcaldy. Each visit in Fife presented us with the difference stories and indeed experiences that Children and Young People have had in relation to the lenses of the CRC.

Our final day was kicked off with a Live Glow Meet between myself and the Vice Chairperson to over 30 Schools in Scotland – engaging directly with Children and Young People – through a Question and Answer Session.

It was the day that the photo of Aylan Kurdi appeared in the National Media and touched the hearts of everyone across the Nation. I remember this, because of a question that a School Pupil asked the Vice Chairperson and I. The Young Girl asked, “Do the Refugee Children who are coming from other countries like Italy have the same rights as those in Scotland.”

I wanted to share that with you. Because it struck a cord with me, with Amal and with everyone in the room. How nuanced the knowledge and emotional intelligence is of our Children and Young People – the innocence of the question – that showcases our true humanity.

After the formal welcome event in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, we visited organisations such as WhoCares Scotland and Clan Childlaw, who shared first hand the work that they do with Children and Young People in Scotland.
One of the visits in Glasgow which will stay with me for all of my days, is a visit to the Glasgow City Mission, and spending the Morning with Parents and their small Children – the time was spent playing in the play room but also – hearing first hand the impact of Welfare Reform to people in Glasgow and I suspect across the Country.

There was so much that was discussed during those two days that we hosted the visit by the Vice Chairperson, that it will be hard to reflect the scale and depth of the incredible conversations and rich discourse which we had.

But some key messages that I took away from the visit was the sheer impact that Child Poverty is having across our Communities in the United Kingdom and indeed, as I have highlighted, the impact which Welfare Reform is having to the Communities most in need – hearing stories of Benefit Sanctions and impact on peoples lives.

Other issues we heard about where the Minimum Age of Responsibility and importantly, the case for Scotland to have a stronger voice in the United Nations Reporting Process. I cannot stress enough, how clear it was to us, that the voices not only of Scotland but of all the Devolved Nations across these Islands – are in urgent need of having their voices heard more loudly and more clearly by the United Nations to ensure that they are being held to account for their decision making and indeed ensure that the realization of Children and Young Peoples Rights become an even greater priority.

So important it was, that the voices and views of Scotland’s Children and Young People be heard, that we then had the opportunity for two of the Board to travel to the United Nations in Geneva to speak at the Pre-Sessional of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and in particular at the Children’s Meeting and the Pre-Session itself where both Ewan McCall MSYP and Kirsty McCahill MSYP made fantastic contributions.

Kirsty and Ewan focused in their evidence session on the impact on Children’s Rights that Child Poverty is having, an in particular, the recognition that the existence of Child Poverty and need for structural change is causal to the lack of realization of Children’s Rights. In addition, they continued to champion other issues, particularly, on the case for Votes at Sixteen in all Elections in the United Kingdom – recognising the importance which we as elected Young People place – to ensuring that we continue to foster participation in Politics by Scotland’s Young People.

In closing, I’m delighted to be able to join you all here for this meeting of the Cross Party Group on Children and Young People and I hope that you have found my remarks to be interesting, informative and my sincere hope is that you found them to be challenging and thought provoking also.

You will very shortly be watching the Vine Videos that share important messages on Children’s Right’s and I hope that you enjoy them.

Thank you again for inviting me and I want to end by saying this, the power which we in this room, and indeed all of those who work with Children and Young People have in changing the future is huge. SYP fully supports the manifesto and we will be encouraging the MSPs and prospective MSPs we meet in the weeks and months ahead to read it and sign up and ensure that children’s rights are central to all of their decisions and actions.

I look forward to working with all of you to deliver a better and fairer future for all of Scotland’s Children and Young People.