Scottish Government ignores child rights concerns around armed forces activities in schools

06/09/2019

ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland press release (1)

Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch are disappointed that the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament have decided to close further investigation of how to implement their own recommendations around oversight of armed forces activities in schools.

The decision was taken at the same time as the Scottish Government is consulting on how to incorporate children’s rights into Scottish law.(2)

In a meeting on Thursday 5 September, the Public Petitions Committee agreed not to pursue their recommendations further. Whenever the petition was in front of the Committee extra Conservative MSPs attended to speak against it. While within the rules of parliament, it meant the voices round the table did not reflect the composition of the chamber, and petitioners were given no forewarning so they could ask MSPs who support the petition to also attend.

In 2018 the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee made a number of recommendations to ensure greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation around armed forces visits to schools in Scotland.(3) These were widely welcomed by child rights organisations.(4)

However, in responding to the recommendations, the Scottish Government chose not to assess the issue from a children’s rights perspective, as the Committee recommended.(5)

Emma Sangster of ForcesWatch said, ‘While we recognise that the Committee have looked seriously at this issue, it is regrettable that they decided to not pursue their own recommendations as far as possible. However we are most concerned that, despite its commitment to child rights, the Scottish Government is showing no leadership on this issue, preferring to allow the armed forces to provide their own regulation.

‘Instead of denying the need for oversight, the Scottish Government should have taken the opportunity to provide leadership with a thorough assessment of the issue, and give guidance to schools on how to approach it, as would happen in other areas. We are sure that many headteachers would have welcomed this leadership from the Government. We also know that many parents would have.’

Mairi Campbell-Jack of Quakers in Scotland said, ‘Quakers in Scotland are disappointed to see MSPs continue to refer to the petition as though it aims to ban armed forces visits to schools, or to stop people pursuing a career in the forces.  Given the evidence of poor mental and physical outcomes for those who recruit under 18, the petition aimed to make sure informed consent is a reality for Scotland’s young people, and that as a country we continue to uphold children’s rights.’

ENDS

FUTHER INFORMATION AND CONTACTS

The proceedings of the Public Petitions Committee meeting on 5 Sept 2019 can be watched here from 10.33am: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/public-petitions-committee-september-5-2019

The petition, submissions in evidence and report with recommendations can be found at: http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/armedforcesvisitstoschools

For a background data report see ‘Armed forces visits to schools in Scotland: An update for 2016-2017’  https://forceswatch.net/sites/default/files/armed_forces_visits_schools_Scotland_2016-17.pdf

For more information and media enquiries contact:

ForcesWatch: 07752 304113

Quakers in Scotland: Anne van Staveren, Media Relations Officer – 020 7663 1048, 07958 009703

NOTES

1. ForcesWatch scrutinises armed forces recruitment practices and proposes changes in policy aimed at better serving the interests of young people. See http://www.forceswatch.net

Quakers’ commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change. For information about Quakers in Scotland see http://quakerscotland.org/

2. Children’s Rights: Consultation on incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into our domestic law in Scotland. https://consult.gov.scot/children-and-families/uncrc/

3. Public Peitions Committee report on Petition PE01603: Ensuring greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation on armed forces visits to schools in Scotland. http://www.parliament.scot/S5_PublicPetitionsCommittee/Reports/PE1603EReport.pdf

4. Submissions supportive of the petition were made by the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Together (Scottish Alliance on Child Rights) called for a Child Rights Impact Assessment to be made, Connect (formerly the Scottish Parent Teacher Council), and the Catholic Church, amongst others. http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/armedforcesvisitstoschools

5. See letters from Deputy First Minister of December 2018 and July 2019 and petitioners’ letters of June and August 2019: http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/armedforcesvisitstoschools