One year ago, Holyrood took a courageous step when it passed the Equal Protection Bill, meaning that children in Scotland are afforded the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy. This will come into full legal effect in a few short weeks.
I was extremely proud to bring forward that Bill which will enhance the rights of children in Scotland and help to make our country one of the best places in the world to grow up. However, the effort was far from mine alone.
The Coalition for Equal Protection, made up of Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st and NSPCC Scotland, used their wealth of experience to lend the campaign the momentum it needed. Their research, evidence and campaigning work alongside children and families helped convince the majority of my parliamentary colleagues that this was an important step forward for Scotland.
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, also provided important support when he said clearly and plainly “it is never okay to assault a child for the purposes of punishment”. Those simple words cut to the heart of the matter and the children of Scotland are fortunate to have such a dedicated champion in office.
In the year since the Scottish Parliament passed my Bill the world has changed in ways we simply could not have foreseen. Children and young people have had to carry a heavy burden, with schooling and socialising with their friends now an entirely different experience. So, while the simple change to the law we made last year has certainly made Scotland a better place for children there is much more still much more we can do to make it better.
I have no doubt that those involved in the campaign to support my Bill will be working tirelessly to that end as I write. Those of us in Holyrood would be wise keep listening to their counsel. They have both my gratitude and my sincerest best wishes.