MSPs have voted against attempts to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to either 14 or 16.
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton lodged amendments to a planned new law to increase the age from eight to 12, arguing a further increase would be in line with international responsibilities.
The current age is one of the lowest in the world, and below the rest of the UK at 10.
During a debate on the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill at stage two at Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, Mr Cole-Hamilton said the United Nations will increase the baseline age from the current 12 to 14 in the coming days.
He said: “Unamended, this Bill is an embarrassment… I will only vote for this Bill because the current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is, quite frankly, medieval.”
He said history, the international community and the children affected will judge the Government for not backing the further increase, which he said wrecks any claim that Scotland is a human rights champion.
His amendments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to either 14 or 16, to give 18 months for this to come into effect once the legislation raising the age to 12 is passed, or to increase the age of criminal prosecution to either 14 or 16, were all voted down by five votes to two.
Mr Cole-Hamilton was backed by Labour’s Mary Fee in voting for the change, while SNP and Conservative committee members voted against it.
The Lib Dem MSP said last year, 11 cases against 12 and 13-year-olds committing offences were taken to court. He argued this shot down the Government’s case that a further increase from the age of 12 would cause a capacity issue.
He criticised the SNP for an argument he claimed suggests the children’s hearing system exempts Scotland from international standards, saying: “When it comes to the international minimum, we don’t get a pass.”
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd urged the committee not to back the amendments for a further age rise.
She said she had “significant concerns” about using the Bill to raise the age past 12, highlighting worries about the readiness to deal with further increases, which she said would require additional primary legislation.
She also raised capacity concerns.
She said: “I think that by setting arbitrary time limits there is a risk we rush this and fail to address all the matters that need to be considered. We need to take the time to get it right.”