A friend for every child in Scotland

4th April 2003 at 01:00
THE person appointed to promote the rights of Scotland's children will be a "champion" and not a "faceless functionary", the Scottish Parliament was told last week.

In a landmark vote, MSPs passed the first Bill to have come from one of the Parliament's committees, creating what Irene McGugan, the SNP's deputy education spokesperson, called "a lasting legacy for future generations".

The Commissioner for Children and Young People, expected to be in post early next year, will be "a powerful friend" for every child, according to Karen Gillon, convener of the education committee which produced the Bill.

"It is intended that the commissioner will make a difference to them and to them alone."

In a striking display of cross-party support, Brian Monteith, the Tory education spokesman, said his initial scepticism had been overcome, while Ian Jenkin, Liberal Democrat, reminded MSPs that the original idea of a children's commis-sioner had come from Jim Wallace, Liberal Democrat leader, in a debate in the Commons in 1995.

Michael Russell, the SNP's education spokesperson, praised the Bill for being "thoroughly modern and contemporary . . . What we do here this afternoon is concerned not only with Scotland but with showing the determination of many people to support the rights of children throughout the world."

Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, hoped the commissioner would help "harder-to-reach" children with communication difficulties, whose first language is not English or who are from ethnic communities or are disabled.

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