Skip to main content


This is a new website that we're testing. Please give us your feedback on our external survey.

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Children (Scotland) Bill


The Bill changes the law relating to children. It aims to improve the court process in contact and residence cases. Contact and residence cases decide the living and visiting arrangements for children.

It makes changes to existing law, in particular to Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. This covers

  • parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs)
  • contact and residence cases of children when parents are no longer together
  • changes to aspects of the Children’s Hearings system

The changes proposed by the Bill include:

  • encouraging hearing the views of younger children
  • protecting vulnerable witnesses in court cases about children
  • recognising parental rights and responsibilities obtained outwith the UK
  • regulating child contact centres

Child contact centres provide services for children to have contact with family members and parents they do not live with.

The Bill makes other changes including:

  • setting up registers of child welfare reporters (people who can seek the views of the child or undertake other enquires and make reports to the courts)
  • sets up registers of people who can be appointed to safeguard the interests of a child at court.
  • adds to the list of things the court must consider when making their decisions.
  • aims to promote contact between looked after children and siblings.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the bill.

Why the Bill was created

The Bill aims to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in family court cases.

It aims to ensure the best interests of the child are at the centre of contact and residence cases.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the bill.

The Bill at different stages

'Bills' are proposed laws. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) discuss them to decide if they should become law.

Here are the different versions of the Bill:

The Bill as introduced

Children (Scotland) Bill as Introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and the related documents to the Scottish Parliament.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Government Bills

These are Bills that have been introduced by the Scottish Government. They are sometimes called 'Executive Bills'.

Most of the laws that the Scottish Parliament looks at are Government Bills.

Hybrid Bills

These Bills are suggested by the Scottish Government.

As well as having an impact on a general law, they could also have an impact on organisations' or the public's private interests.

The first Hybrid Bill was the Forth Crossing Bill.

Members' Bill

These are Bills suggested by MSPs. Every MSP can try to get 2 laws passed in the time between elections. This 5-year period is called a 'parliamentary session'.

To do this, they need other MSPs from different political parties to support their Bills.

Committee Bills

These are Bills suggested by a group of MSPs called a committee.

These are Public Bills because they will change general law.

Private Bills

These are Bills suggested by a person, group or company. They usually:

  • add to an existing law
  • change an existing law

A committee would be created to work on a Private Bill.

Bill stage timeline

This Children (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 1.


The Scottish Government sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.

Children (Scotland) Bill as introduced

Related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Have your say

The consultation on the Children (Scotland) Bill closed on 15 November. The results will be available early 2020. 

Committees involved in this Bill

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.

It looks at everything to do with the Bill.

Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:

  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force
  • give details of how a law will be applied
  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed

An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).