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The Scottish government is set to introduce a new law that will criminalise the emotional abuse and neglect of children in Scotland.

The move is a response to concerns raised over the “archaic language” in the current 1937 Children and Young Persons Act, which has made it difficult to prosecute offences. 

Concerns were formally raised in an independent review of the child protection system, led by former Crown Office Chief Catherine Dyer, together with findings from the government’s child protection improvement programme. 

Ms Dyer’s report stated that the current system functions for young people already identified at risk, but it is less capable of dealing with more “complex and sensitive” issue related to emerging risks. In anyalysing the options available, the report calls for a national child protection leadership group, a child protection register as well as defined standards all significant case reviews should adhere to. 

 In total, there were 12 recommendations contained within the report, all of which Early Years Minister Mark McDonald announced would be taken forward. 

A new criminal offence would essentially be an amendment to the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937.

Speaking in Parliament, Mark McDonald MSP, 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.

Claire Burns, Director of Programmes and Services at the Centre for Excellence for looked after children in Scotland (CELCIS), commented: 

“We all have a shared aspiration across this country to make Scotland one of the best and safest places for children and young people to grow up. For children, safety and protection from harm and abuse are a right. Keeping children safe is therefore a fundamental duty that we all have. 

“Today’s announcement by Mark McDonald is reassuring, and is a significant step in making meaningful and lasting improvements to Scotland’s child protection services.”

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