Sunday Express: Big Brother becomes a surrogate mum and dad

Scottish Sunday Express comment 22 June 2014

By Paula Murray

THE Scottish Government has earmarked £40million to hire an extra 500 health visitors over the next four years. They will be there, according to ministers, to offer support and advice to families with young children.

It all sounds rather sweet. But when you consider this is all to do with the scheme to appoint “state guardians” to the country’s youngsters, the development begins to appear a little sinister.

Of course, there are people who are simply no good at bringing up their children, and it is for this reason that these measures are being taken.

But the vast majority of parents are responsible mothers and fathers who want nothing but the best for their children. The idea that the state should appoint an additional pair of eyes to monitor a child’s wellbeing has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany where everybody snooped on everyone else to ensure the communist values imposed on the nation were duly appreciated and followed.

Although I am childless, I feel uneasy about the idea that an outsider – whether a teacher, health visitor or someone else – is appointed as a child’s “extra parent”.

What if there is a fall-out between the state guardian and the child’s family? What if there is a disagreement as to what is best for the youngster? Who gets the final word? The state?

Would it not be the easiest thing for the appointed individual to make the parents’ lives hell should they so choose to do so?

Social workers and health professionals are equipped – or at least they should be – to deal with any problem cases and step in if necessary.

I don’t for a moment believe that these Big Brother plans will actually benefit anyone. If anything, they will end up interfering with the rights of both parents and children.

There is no way to opt out from the “named person” scheme, or to ask for somebody else to be appointed for your child – they will simply be there every step of the way until the child reaches the age of 18.

So in other words, a teenager can get married, leave school, get a job and start paying taxes, drive a car, join the armed forces or even have children their own, and their state guardian will still be peering over their shoulder.

I simply cannot fathom what good it will do. It is legalised spying on family life and I don’t like the sound of it. Various charities and organisations agree echoes the with me.

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) believes the state guardians will “undermine parental freedom and responsibility”.

The Law Society in Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates have warned the measures could breach European Human Rights law on privacy and family life.

But despite these concerns our ministers have ploughed ahead with the plans, with Holyrood approving the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill back in February.

Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives says the legislation effectively removes the parents’ primary obligation of looking after their children and gives it to the state. She is right.

And here is the big question – if the state snooping starts at birth, where does it end? Because it is not going to be on your 18th birthday.

‘It has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany’

Sunday 22 June 2014

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