IN the bustle of my constituency office this week, a chorus of youthful voices cut through the everyday politics with absolute clarity. Nineteen schoolchildren, escorted by their teachers, transformed the space with their infectious energy and frank, insightful observations. There’s something genuinely invigorating about engaging with children when their authenticity is so disarming and illuminating.

Children see the world through a lens unclouded by the complexities of adult life. Their ideas, often distilled into simple truths, can offer us a refresher course on what matters most. This was clear as they articulated their concerns about the environment, farming, animal welfare, and particularly road safety near their schools.

One youngster spoke of what they observed on a daily walk to school, particularly the apparent haste and recklessness of some drivers, underscoring the fear and vulnerability they feel. Their solution wasn’t about expensive infrastructure or who should be mitigating these things. They instinctively turned their focus to personal responsibility – the drivers behind the wheels. Isn’t that what we are consistently teaching children as adults? Personal responsibility.

Their remarks struck a chord with me, not just as an MSP but as a mother and member of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee. These young voices remind us that at the heart of every legislation, every road sign and every pedestrian crossing, there should be a simple, guiding principle of safeguarding the wellbeing of our children.

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They deserve literal safe passages in their communities, yes, but they also deserve safe passages through all the often complicated processes of life and to have a place in decision-making that governs our society. A society for all, not just for children’s futures, but for their here and now, and for all children to come.

The dialogue with the children couldn’t have been timelier, as we on the Equalities Committee examine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) bill. This bill is more than legislation – it’s a symbol of Scotland’s commitment to our children. Oor wee Scots. It’s been a battleground of jurisdiction, but it’s heartening to see that we’re fighting to keep it alive, in a form that we can embed here in Scotland, where it can serve our young people.

During the discussions about whom our committee should hear from, a few panel members who came to give evidence suggested that we should listen to children themselves. What an essential reminder! Who better to discuss the rights of children than the children? Their views can inspire and direct us in ways that studies, statistics and expert testimonies might not. They’re not just future adults, they’re active, perceptive members of society right now, deserving of a seat at the table in discussions that will shape their lives.

Child participation in governance is not a novel concept, but it is one that requires a deliberate and sustained commitment. We must move beyond tokenistic gestures and build robust mechanisms that not only allow but encourage children to share their ideas, experiences and solutions. Our legislative processes should reflect not just adult concerns but also the vivid dreams and aspirations of our younger generations.

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Their clarity of input brings a purity of purpose to the often-muddied waters of policymaking. When children express their views on animal rights, they don’t just see legislation, they feel the inherent worth of other living beings.

The children who came to visit certainly spoke from a compassionate stance. One which we as adults often lose as we harden to harsh realities of this existence. When they talk about the environment, it’s not just about climate targets, it’s about the very world they are inheriting, speaking of it as a living thing and a thing to nurture – a world they’re increasingly worried about and eager to protect.

And isn’t this what we need right now? As we navigate the complexities of a world facing unprecedented challenges, the refreshing honesty and clarity of children can be the compass that guides us. It’s not about simplifying the problems but about realigning our strategies with the core values of care, respect and shared responsibility.

In the quest for creating a world where the rights and dignities of all are upheld, let us not forget that children are not just beneficiaries of our policies – they are partners in our journey towards a just and equitable society. As we work to recalibrate the UNCRC bill to align with the devolved powers, I look forward to listening to the very individuals for whom this bill will mean the most.

In every child’s perspective, there lies a potential solution, an untapped well of creativity and innovation. Let’s be humble enough to admit that, despite our experience, we don’t always know best, or perhaps we have just buried those essential aspects of our optimistic youth under the piles of adult responsibilities and cynicism.

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Let’s be wise enough to understand that by genuinely listening to our children, we’re not just giving them a voice – we are gaining an understanding which can help guide us all.

As I write this piece, I’m inspired not just to advocate for a bill or a policy but to champion a culture where every child knows that their voice matters, their safety is paramount and their rights are non-negotiable. A culture where the saying “children should be seen and not heard” becomes a relic of the past, and where “out of the mouths of babes” becomes a guiding principle for policymakers.

One of the most poignant comments from the school visit this week which stuck with me was: “When I cross the road to school, the drivers in the cars look very grumpy when the lollipop lady stops them.”

Perhaps a reminder to smile and show patience when considering a child’s safety would result in them feeling more valued and less of a nuisance. Not an intention I am sure, but one to ponder.

Here’s to building a Scotland that values the unfiltered wisdom of our youth.