‘Unworkable’ Named Person Bill blocked by Holyrood committee

Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee has refused to back the Named Person information sharing Bill, in what may be the biggest setback to the scheme since it was declared unlawful by the UK Supreme Court last year.

Yesterday, the Committee told Deputy First Minister John Swinney that they cannot properly assess the Bill until they have an “authoritative draft” of the Code of Practice explaining how it will operate. Mr Swinney has previously said he is “not minded” to consult on the Code of Practice until the legislation has passed.

The Committee’s letter said that without the code “the majority of the Committee do not consider that they are able to make a decision on whether to recommend that the general principles of the bill be approved”.

In taking this action the Committee has rejected John Swinney’s attempt to railroad through the legislation without addressing the concerns of the UK Supreme Court.

Mr Swinney responded to the Committee’s decision by announcing he will form a new independent panel to try to persuade the public that the Named Person policy is ‘workable’.

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented: “This is further evidence of the terrible handling of this policy. The Committee has shown it will not have the wool pulled over its eyes and has bravely stood up to John Swinney.

“Initially he and the Scottish Government tried to steamroller through this deeply flawed and unworkable Bill without giving MSPs the chance to see the crucial details of how it would work in practice.

“Expert witnesses from the legal world and practitioners who will have to work with this scheme have all warned about the dangers and shortcomings of this Bill.

“The Committee has taken heed of that evidence – unlike the Government, which has ploughed on regardless. Now it is being forced to go back and think again.

“John Swinney cannot ignore this and must act on the Committee’s letter. He’s kept MSPs, parents and practitioners in the dark. It’s time he saw the light and consigned this appalling legislation to the Holyrood dustbin. It’s clearly not fit for purpose. MSPs know that. Parents and practitioners know that too. In fact everyone seems to know that except the Scottish Government.

“As things stand, the legal advice we have received is that the new Bill is vulnerable to more court action with good prospects of a victory for any challenge.”

In a parting shot, the Committee also addressed accusations that the Scottish Government had applied pressure to some of the witnesses who are before it to give evidence, demanding reassurances that the Government had not “sought to directly influence evidence to the Committee”.

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