John Swinney pledges to tackle mistrust in 'named person' scheme
The Scottish Education Secretary has pledged to tackle public mistrust in the controversial 'named person' scheme.
On Wednesday, the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee approved legislative changes to halt the scheme’s introduction, before questioning John Swinney over what happens next.
Accepting responsibility for the scheme’s lack of success, he told the Committee that he would address any negative perceptions of ‘named persons’ as he believes it is the "correct policy".
He said: "The question of public trust and confidence in the system is a point that I accept unreservedly. The importance of tackling that, I accept unreservedly. I accept that responsibility.
"It is important that ministers are able to properly and fully build public confidence in what, I think, is the correct policy."
The policy, which would assign a ‘named person’, such as a health worker or teacher, to everyone under the age of 18 in Scotland, was originally meant to be rolled out on 31 August, 2016.
However, full implementation of the plan was halted after the UK's Supreme Court ruled that data sharing provisions were unlawful, following a legal challenge from the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) coalition.
Mr Swinney revealed his intention, last week, of having the scheme up and running by August 2017, after a period of "intense engagements", and making any necessary amendments to its data sharing provisions.
Swinney snubs NO2NP meeting
Despite pledging to tackle mistrust in the scheme and hold "intense engagements" with key stakeholders and opposition groups, Mr Swinney has rejected requests to meet with the NO2NP coalition.
Addressing the Committee, on Wednesday, he said he would not "engage in conversations about people who want to make sure we don’t have a named person policy".
Simon Calvert, spokesman for the NO2NP coalition, said: "It’s a pity he declined to meet with us and hear our views in addition to his supporters.
We represent a significant number of concerned mums and dads who fought long and hard, using their own money, to fight a law, which they rightly said was illegal."
Some of the complaints
The NO2NP argue the scheme is "unjustified and unjustifiable state interference with family rights".
A UK Supreme Court judgment states that the plans breach the right to privacy and a family life.
A booklet produced for North Ayrshire council, explaining how the scheme would work, raised concerns that children as young as five will be encouraged to think about their ‘gender-identity’ and sexual orientation.
Lack of support
Last year, 133 individuals responded to a Scottish Parliament consultation on the scheme.
Of those 133 individuals who responded to the consultation, only 2% were in favour. 149 organisations also responded, of which 55% backed it.
In a Survation poll commissioned by the Scottish Daily Mail, in June, 64% of 1,024 Scottish adults thought the scheme is intrusive. In comparison, only 18.5% thought the scheme was not intrusive.
A ComRes poll, commissioned by The Christian Institute, found that nearly two-thirds of adults, across the UK, believe the plans are an "unacceptable intrusion" into family life.
The ComRes poll also revealed that 79% of parents, across the UK, said they would be concerned about any disagreements they have with the 'named person' over what was in their child's best interests.
Education and Skills Committee - Scottish Parliament (The Scottish Parliament)
Swinney vows to build trust in 'named person' (Times £)
Herald Scotland: 'The devil's in the detail and we need answers' (NO2NP)
Swinney snubs campaigners against state guardians' (NO2NP)
Named Person' scheme to return next year
Further concerns over 'named person' scheme
'Named Person' scheme will encourage children to think about 'gender identity'
Pupils' home life to be state-monitored under 'named person' scheme
Poll reveals majority oppose 'intrusive' 'Named Person' scheme
64% believe 'Named Person' scheme in an 'unacceptable intrusion' into family life