1. This report has been prepared by the Scottish Executive as its contribution to the report being prepared on behalf of the UK by the UK Government. It takes account of the "General guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports to be submitted by States parties under Article 44" issued in November 2005.
2. Throughout this report we use the term children to refer to children and young people under the age of 18 years.
3. Scotland is one of the 4 constituent countries of the United Kingdom and has been part of Great Britain since the Acts of Union in 1707. The Scottish legal system is however separate from those of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and along with the independence of the Scottish education system has contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity.
4. Following a referendum on devolution proposals in 1997, executive and legislative powers in certain areas were devolved to the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 specifies that the UK Parliament retains active power over, for example Scotland's taxes, social security system, the military and immigration system. The Scottish Parliament has legislative authority for all other areas relating to Scotland, and has limited power to vary income tax, but has never exercised this power. The Scottish Parliament can refer devolved matters back to Westminster to be considered as part of United Kingdom-wide legislation by passing a Legislative Consent Motion if United Kingdom-wide legislation is considered to be more appropriate for certain issues.
5. Much of the work of the Scottish Parliament is done in committee. The role of committees is stronger in the Scottish Parliament than in other parliamentary systems as a means of strengthening the role of backbenchers in their scrutiny of the Executive. The principal role of committees in the Scottish Parliament is to scrutinise legislation. Additionally, committees may conduct inquiries into areas under their remit.
6. The programmes of legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament have seen a divergence in the provision of public services compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. There have been major developments in policy and legislation since devolution and those changes are fully reflected in this report.
7. There were 1,066,646 children under the age of 18 in Scotland in 2004. This represents just over 20% of the population, a relatively low figure compared to the EU average of 24% (Eurostat 2002) . As a result of immigration, Scotland's bigger cities have significant Asian and Scottish Asian populations. Since the recent EU enlargement there has been an increased number of people from Central and Eastern Europe moving to Scotland, for example: there are estimated to be between 40,000 and 50,000 Poles living in Scotland.