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Child protection guidance and legislation for Scotland

March 2012

A list of the guidance and corresponding legislation for protecting children from abuse and neglect in Scotland.

National guidance

Child protection in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

National guidance for child protection in Scotland was published by the Scottish Government in December 2010 providing a national framework for agencies and practitioners at local level to work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The 2010 guidance replaces the previous version, Protecting children: a shared responsibility: guidance on inter-agency co-operation, published in 1998 and incorporates the guidance Protecting children and young people: child protection committees (PDF) (2005).

Local authorities will have their own inter-agency child protection procedures which are based on the National guidance.

National guidance for child protection in Scotland (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2010
Guidance for all services, agencies, professional bodies, organisations and individuals working within an adult and child service context who face, or could face, child protection issues. Provides a national framework for understanding and agreeing processes for working together to safeguard and promote children's welfare. Sets out expectations for strategic planning of services and highlights key responsibilities for services and organisations.

Examples of local guidance:

Interagency child protection procedures: Edinburgh and the Lothians (PDF)
Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Executive Group (ELBEG), 2012

West of Scotland child protection procedures
Online version, Version 4.0 (2011)


In Scotland the legislative framework for today's child protection system is founded in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

The Act is centred on the needs of children and their families, defines both parental responsibilities and rights in relation to children, sets out the duties and powers available to public authorities to support children and their families and to intervene if there are concerns about a child's welfare.

The Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 is legislation setting out measures to prevent unsuitable adults from working with children.

Significant case reviews

The statutory guidance for conducting a significant case reviews in Scotland is:

Protecting children and young people: interim guidance for Child Protection Committees for conducting a significant case review (PDF).
Scottish Executive, 2007
Guidance for professionals involved in conducting a significant case review (SCR).  Aims to provide more clarity and consistency on what should be done and how best to act on the lessons learnt from a review.  Included criteria for deciding if a case is 'significant', the procedure for instigating a review and undertaking and publishing the report. Also provides guidelines for the learning cycle which results from a SCR.

See our page on significant case reviews in Scotland for more information.

Sexual abuse

Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

Guidance On The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2010
Guidance on implementing the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.  Part 4 covers offences relating to sexual behaviour towards children.  Part 5 is on offences concerning sexual abuse of trust.  This guidance was issued in October 2010 and the Act came into force on 1 December 2010.

National guidance: under-age sexual activity: meeting the needs of children and young people and identifying child protection concerns (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2010
Aimed at practitioners in Scotland who work with or have a duty of care towards children and young people. Focuses on how agencies and practitioner should respond to under age sexual activity, outlining how to develop local protocols to ensure early identification and support for children and young people at risk of significant harm. Includes criteria to assist practitioners when assessing risks and children's needs and advice on the action to be taken.

See also our pages on sexual abuse.

Child trafficking

Safeguarding children in Scotland who may have been trafficked (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2009
Guidance on child trafficking for practitioners in social care, education, immigration, health and law enforcement in Scotland. The report identifies the reasons for, and methods used in, trafficking as well as the roles of different agencies and procedures for professionals.  Adapted from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) guidance from 2007.

See our pages on child trafficking.

Child witnesses

Guidance on joint investigative interviewing of child witnesses in Scotland.
Scottish Government, 2011


A national approach to anti-bullying for Scotland's children and young people (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2010

Children under one

A pathway of care for vulnerable families (0-3): guidance (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2011
Outlines guidance relating to the support of vulnerable children and families from conception to age 3 in Scotland.  Divides guidance into three main sections: the universal journey; approaches during the antenatal period; and ways of improving the universal pathway.  Advocates a strengths-based approach to service provision and emphasises the importance of effective parental engagement.  Aimed at service managers from all agencies to help with implementation of the Early Years Framework.

See our pages in children under one.

Forced marriage

Responding to forced marriage: multi-agency practice guidelines (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2011
Aimed at frontline professionals to help better identify and protect children and adults at risk of forced marriage.  Outlines the issues and presents good practice for keeping a victim safe following a disclosure.  Sets out the required information and multi-agency actions to be taken in all cases.  Gives job-specific guidance for: health, education, police, children's services, adult services and local authority housing. 

Forced Marriage: statutory guidance (PDF).
Scottish Government, 2011
Statutory guidance issued under the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011. Sets out the processes that agencies must have in place when exercising public functions in relation to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults in cases of forced marriage. Particularly aimed at chief executives, directors and senior managers, outlining responsibilities for developing and maintaining local processes and practice arrangements.

Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011.

Contact the NSPCC Information Service for specialist information on any child protection topic