Quakers welcome recommended child rights review of armed forces visits to Scottish schools

By agency reporter
June 5, 2018

The Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee has called for a “child rights and wellbeing assessment in relation to armed forces visits to schools". The panel of MSPs was responding to the 2016 appeal from more than 1,000 citizens for more accountability for the armed forces accessing Scottish schools.

The Committee's recommended review would ensure that “information resources are available which allow a balance of views",  and noted that the armed forces could not supply this alone. The MSPs also called on the Ministry of Defence to publish information about armed forces visits to schools in Scotland on an ongoing basis, allowing scrutiny of which schools are targeted.

Initiated by Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch, the petition called on the Scottish government to produce guidance for schools on military visits, meaningful scrutiny of which schools the military targets and proper consultation of parents and guardians. The petition arose in the context of the ongoing militarisation of public life by the government of the United Kingdom. 

The Committee heard extensive evidence from the public, civil society organisations, parents, churches, scientists and young people themselves about the welfare and human rights concerns for pupils subjected to one-sided presentations from the armed forces.

Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain, said,"It is faith that leads Quakers to be concerned about the increasing militarisation of society and of our education system. We are delighted that the Committee has recognised and taken our concerns seriously. We welcome the call for a Children's Rights Impact and Wellbeing Assessment (CRIA), which we urge the Scottish government to undertake. This is an opportunity to take forward peace education work in Scotland, to provide the balance education needs."

The UK as a whole continues to recruit from age 16 in defiance of advice from experts and human rights groups while the Ministry of Defence engages extensively with Scottish schools. A total of 770 military visits were made by the armed forces to Scottish schools between April 2016 and March 2017, three quarters of which promoted armed forces careers (ForcesWatch).

Echoing evidence from Tam Baillie, then Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, the Committee noted that armed forces visits are “part of the recruitment journey for some young people" even when promoting military careers is not the stated aim.

While the age of recruitment is outside the powers of the Scottish government, the Petitions Committee has recommended the careers information provided should include information about the risks involved in joining the armed forces, which include “PTSD, self-harm, suicide, death and injury" according to Medact's submission.

*  Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

* Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

* Medact works to encourage and enable the health community to be effective and progressive social change agents. https://www.medact.org/  Read its submission to the Defence Select Committee here

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