'Named Person' scheme to return next year
The Scottish National Party has announced its intention to implement its ‘Named Person’ scheme by August 2017, after a period of "intense engagements" and amending it.
Full implementation of the scheme, which has been piloted in some Scottish counties, was meant to take place last month, but was halted after the Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful.
The 'Named Person' scheme
Under the scheme, which would have been rolled out at the end of August, all children in Scotland would have been allocated a 'Named Person', such as a teacher or health worker, to act as a state-appointed guardian.
The nominated individual would have been given access to the child’s confidential records and be expected to report any concerns to the police.
The plans raised widespread concern about state control and interference with parental responsibility for their children.
The No to Named Persons Coalition (NO2NP), which mounted the legal challenge against the 'Named Person' legislation, said the scheme was "unjustified and unjustifiable state interference with family rights".
In a victory for both freedom and the family, judges said that the plans breach the right to privacy and a family life, under the European Convention of Human Rights.
In a line from their judgment, the Supreme Court Justices said:
"The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers' view of the world."
They added that "within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way". The judgment is available for public viewing on YouTube.
Despite the ruling, in a statement to the Holyrood parliament on Thursday, Education Secretary, John Swinney, told MSPs that the government remained committed to amending and enforcing the scheme.
He said the government would undertake a three-month period of "intense engagement" with key stakeholders and opposition groups, as he wants the scheme to be put into place "as quickly as possible".
He told MSPs: "The Supreme Court judgement does not dilute our commitment but it has required us to revise part of the legislation to ensure that it is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
"We want the legislation to achieve exactly what the Supreme Court says it needs to achieve."
"It is my ambition to work towards a commencement date and these provisions by August 2017," he added.
In a statement on the NO2NP website, spokesman Simon Calvert said: "This would be laughable if it were not so offensive to the parents whose human rights were so cavalierly ignored in the drafting of the Named Person law.
"The Supreme Court said the kind of widespread, routine sharing of sensitive personal data that the government wanted is unlawful, and a breach of human rights and cannot go ahead.
"Whatever the Deputy First Minister may claim, the Named Person scheme he ends up with in a year’s time will be very different from the policy he wanted.
"Instead of focusing on saving face, the government should be apologising to parents for ignoring their human rights. We welcome the Deputy First Minister’s pledge to consult widely with professionals and parents, including people who do not agree with the Named Person."
Mr Calvert added: "The consultation, and the acknowledgement that it will take a year to draw up and implement the new proposals, is an admission that they have to heavily rewrite key aspects of the Named Person policy."
The Scottish Conservatives, who have called on the SNP "to heed the Supreme Court ruling and scrap the scheme altogether", said Mr Swinney still faced "key questions".
Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, Liz Smith, said her Party would continue to fight against the unnecessary and unpopular policy, which parents and professionals do not want.
Ms Smith added: "The SNP has been told in no uncertain terms by the Supreme Court about the merits of this policy, and it’s time Nationalists swallowed their pride and listened."
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour expressed disappointment that John Swinney is yet to confirm that 16 – 18-year-olds are still included in the legislation, after previously saying he would consider dropping them from the scheme.
Party education spokesman Iain Gray said: "It is absurd that people the law says are old enough to vote, marry, and work are told by the SNP that they need a Named Person. Simply tweaking the law to meet the Supreme Court's concern will not be enough."
He added: "Labour still supports the principles behind the policy – support for vulnerable families so no child falls through the cracks – but John Swinney has a lot to do to win back public support."
Scottish Liberal Democrats withdrew their support from the scheme following its defeat at the UK Supreme Court.
No2NP responds to Swinney statement on named persons (NO2NP)
Oppose the Named Person Scheme (Scottish Conservatives)
SNP announce 'intense' Named Person plan consultation (The Scotsman)
John Swinney sets right tone over changes to Named Person plan (Herald Scotland)
Scottish 'named person' child support scheme delayed by a year (the Guardian)
16 and 17-year-olds may be dropped from 'Named Person' scheme
Scottish Liberal Democrats withdraw support for 'Named Person' scheme