Tuesday was a particularly special day for me as the first Bill for which I have been responsible as Minister for Children and Young People – the Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill -was passed at Holyrood.
This historic piece of legislation means primary school-aged children will never again be arrested and treated as offenders. The Bill will make far-reaching changes to the way the law treats children under 12, with Scotland leading by increasing the age of criminal responsibility to the highest in the UK.
This ground-breaking law delivers a bold, progressive, child-centred approach that will make a real difference to children’s lives.
We can be proud that Scotland is leading the way in the UK. The Bill ensures that serious harmful behaviour will be investigated appropriately and victims will continue to get the support they need.
Currently young children can be left with criminal records that can follow them into adulthood and affect their chances of getting training or a job. The measures in this Bill will end that.
I have sought to achieve the right balance with this Bill. It forms a key part of our wider approach to children’s rights and youth justice. By getting this right, we will demonstrate that in Scotland we don’t just say things differently; we also do things differently.
On an international scale, climate crisis has been much in the news of late.
Collective and urgent obligations to act, led by 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, and the protests of hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren in over 100 countries worldwide – including Orkney – have been inspirational.
Global warming is already wreaking havoc around the world, destroying homes, livelihoods and costing lives.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared a climate emergency and actioned a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Her immediate response this week, including a commitment to scrap plans to cut Air Departure Tax, sends a signal that Scotland will back its declaration with meaningful action.
Scotland will be carbon neutral by 2040. This is the SNP Government’s commitment, with cross-party and public support, to end not only our Scotland-wide contribution to global warming, but most significantly to act in partnership with other countries for the common good.
And of course we know that Orkney is leading the way in decarbonisation of energy. I was interested to hear, on my most recent visit, from Neil Kermode at EMEC about the £28.5M ReFLEX project, which aims to cut the need for fossil fuels by making Orkney a smart energy island. Lessons will be learned which may well change the world!
Meanwhile, a climate of division remains at Westminster as Brexit talks between the Tories and Labour stagger and stall. Watching on is like a game of show and tell – only with no show, and no tell.
Six Scottish MEPs will be elected to the European Parliament on 23 May, now a confirmed date. The SNP’s case – that Scottish interests and potential are best met as an independent country within Europe – grows stronger each day.
You can watch the whole debate here:
This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same regular column.