Scottish Government drops Named Person Scheme

20 September 2019

The Scottish Government has finally dropped its Named Person Scheme, which was intended to give every child in Scotland a ‘named person’ to look out for their wellbeing and happiness. This person would have been a state employee such as a teacher or social worker.

John Swinney, the Scottish Education Secretary, announced yesterday that he would repeal sections 4 and 5 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act which aimed to put the Named Person Scheme on a statutory footing. This was in response to several years of campaigning with the Christian Institute calling for a judicial review of the Act.

Rejecting state employees as ‘parents’

The legal fight against the Named Person Scheme, dubbed the ‘State Snooper Scheme’, was led by the Christian Institute as part of the No 2 Named Person coalition. Their basic argument was that state employees would effectively take the place of parents as those most responsible for bringing up children. The consequences of such a policy would be very grave, as named persons would effectively be enabled to be agents of state surveillance over children. This would have weakened the natural bond between parents and their children.

Scottish sociologist Dr Stuart Waiton, a prominent critic of the scheme, argued that it reflected the increasing tendency to cast parenting as an inherent social problem.

UK Supreme Court ruled against Scottish government

The legal fight continued until the Supreme Court of the UK ruled in July 2016 that the Scottish government had overstepped the bounds of the law on public authorities sharing data about young people.

Numerous distinguished institutions made submissions to the court case raising serious concerns about the scheme, including the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society, the Church of Scotland, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

John Swinney then set up a panel of experts to rewrite the guidance for the Named Person Scheme in order to make it comply with the law. However in August the panel reported back that it was impossible to realise this goal.

Successful swipe at totalitarianism

This victory over the Named Person Scheme is a very important swipe at a totalitarian tendency within government in the United Kingdom. The judges in the UK Supreme Court made this chilling statement:

“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.” [Paragraph 73]

In our response to the Scottish government’s initial consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, which asked whether children under 16 should be allowed to change gender, we referred this UK Supreme Court judgment. We did so as a warning to the Scottish government, given that its plans to allow gender change for under-16s appeared to bear a resemblance to and affinity with the Named Person Scheme in going against the natural God-given order and pattern of relations between parents and children, in eroding parents’ rights to bring up children according to their biological sexes. Now we know that the Scottish government has dropped plans to allow under-16s to change gender.

Lesson learnt – never give up!

The lesson that Christians need to learn from this victory is that perseverance in favour of God’s plan for family life and against state totalitarianism and arrogance pays off. If Christians can win this battle we can win other battles too.

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