New Law Against Emotional Abuse Of Children
2 March 2017, 16:36 | Updated: 2 March 2017, 16:37
The Scottish Government is to bring forward a new law to criminalise the emotional abuse and neglect of children.
Childcare and Early Years Minister Mark McDonald announced the move in response to the publication of two reports on child protection.
Mr McDonald told MSPs at Holyrood that the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 would be updated to recognise the impact of emotional abuse and neglect, as well as physical harm.
It follows the findings of a review of the child protection system led by independent chair Catherine Dyer and the publication of the Government's child protection improvement programme report.
Mr McDonald said: "This Government is determined to ensure more of Scotland's children get the best possible start in life. This means protecting the most vulnerable in our communities from harm, abuse and neglect.
"Catherine Dyer's review concludes that in general, our child protection system works well. However, both she and the child protection improvement programme report have identified opportunities to strengthen all aspects of the system to better protect our children.
"I have accepted all of these recommendations in full and set out how they will be implemented swiftly and effectively.
"Importantly, we will introduce new legislation to make the emotional abuse and neglect of children a criminal offence, updating an 80-year old law whose archaic language has resulted in difficulties prosecuting offences.''
The review was asked to consider whether statutory underpinning was required for aspects of the child protection system, but it recommended a range of other action before moving to legislate.
Mr McDonald added: "I have made clear where I expect to see improvements in Scotland's child protection system, particularly in relation to consistency of approach.
"If in a year's time there is little evidence of real and substantial progress then I will not hesitate to bring forward legislation to provide an appropriate statutory underpinning.''
The Government will also publish a national child protection policy identifying all the responsibilities and actions across government which are aimed at supporting families and protecting children, and explore how best to establish a national child protection register to better protect young people on local registers who move to a new area.
National standards will be drawn up for those carrying out significant case reviews, while the role of the Care Inspectorate will be expanded to analyse their findings.
Mr McDonald also announced plans to set up and chair a national child protection leadership group.
Labour MSP Iain Gray said the party would welcome any progress towards protecting children but raised concerns about the speed of "what has been quite a lengthy process''.
Mr McDonald told him: "I do have expectations around the pace of improvement I expect to see.''