Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has accused the First Minister of having “sacrificed the rights of children in Scotland” as part of a campaign of grievance politics in Westminster.
The Lib Dem said he was “outraged” that the Scottish Government had been advised legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law was within Holyrood’s remit.
The UK Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that the Bill “breaches the limitations imposed on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Act”.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill had been passed unanimously by MSPs at Holyrood earlier this year, but was later referred by the UK Government to the country’s highest court.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, speaking to PA Scotland, said the Scottish Government had been “advised it was passing bad legislation” but had decided to press ahead with it “just for grievance with Westminster”.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has already made clear that the Scottish Government “remains absolutely committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law to the maximum extent possible”, with plans being put in place to revise the legislation.
But Mr Swinney also insisted that the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court on Wednesday made “crystal clear” that “the devolution settlement does not give Scotland the powers it needs”.
The Deputy First Minister stated: “While we fully respect the court’s judgment, it lays bare the weakness of, and the limits in, the devolution settlement.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I am outraged at the Scottish Government that it was advised it was passing bad legislation, didn’t tell the opposition. It knew it was going to end up in court and decided to pull the trigger on that just for grievance with Westminster.
“Nicola Sturgeon has sacrificed the rights of children in Scotland on the altar of grievance with Westminster.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton, who worked as a youth worker prior to becoming an MSP in 2016, also spent two years as the Convener of the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, saying he had “probably done more on the UNCRC than any other member of the Scottish Parliament”.
And he said the Supreme Court verdict was “devastating” for those who have been campaigning to have the rights contained in that enshrined into Scots law.
Speaking ahead of the Scottish Liberal Democrat autumn conference which starts on Friday, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Children have been waiting 30 years since we signed the UNCRC for it to be incorporated into Scots law and yet this becomes a skirmish in the wider frontier of independence. And that is just depressing, it is so depressing.”
He said the issues the Supreme Court had identified with the Bill were a “technicality” which the Scottish Parliament could “easily fix”.
But speaking about the legislation as a whole, he said: “I think it is of more value to the SNP as a tool of grievance than it is for children’s rights.”
A Spokesperson for the First Minister said: “Alex Cole Hamilton’s comments are as absurd as they are predictable.
“He and his party voted for this Bill, along with every member at Holyrood, and if he is as concerned about children’s rights as he claims to be then he should be taking issue with a UK Tory government which chose to try and block the legislation as passed.
“While we respect the ruling of the UK Supreme Court, all it has done is confirm the tight limits of devolution and underline the case for independence so that Scotland’s Parliament is free to legislate on important issues like children’s rights.”