Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
Around 250 people turned out for a NO2NP special event in Edinburgh on Monday in a major rally against the Named Person scheme. People travelled from all over, coming from Moray, the Borders, Perthshire, Dundee and even near Inverness!
Speakers at the John McIntyre Conference Centre included former deputy leader of the SNP Jim Sillars, and prominent human rights QC Aidan O’Neill who successfully represented campaigners involved with NO2NP in court.
Journalist and commentator Kevin McKenna and NO2NP supporters Dr Stuart Waiton and Maggie Mellon also took to the podium.
Jim Sillars urged Deputy First Minister John Swinney to “do a Hammond” on the Named Person scheme and drop the plans.
He said: “My advice would be to do a Hammond. Last week the government at Westminster was in a hole. It had the brains to stop digging and my advice to this government is this isn’t going to work.
“This is going to be a punishment on you over the years ahead. Stop digging, get out the hole and abandon it.”
Aidan O’Neill QC, a leading human rights lawyer who was behind the successful Named Person Supreme Court challenge, spoke about the judgment and its implications for families. He explained the law and why the Supreme Court ruled the way it did.
He said the Named Person legislation was written in a “vague language of aspiration when it should be talking specifically in terms of obligation” and that’s why the Supreme Court ruled that it was “not in accordance with law”.
He was then joined by two members of his legal team, Laura-Anne van der Westhuizen and Sam Webster, to answer questions from the audience about the judgment.
Journalist and commentator Kevin McKenna spoke about media reporting of the Named Person scheme and encouraged delegates to contact newspapers to tell their stories.
Speaking about the scheme he said: “My chief concern is that it will inevitably, even if inadvertently, target families who are encountering chronic social disadvantage”.
Independent social worker Maggie Mellon spoke about the culture and practice of children’s services on the ground. She said families had wanted a single point of contact for parents, but instead the Government had created in the Named Person scheme “a point of contact about parents”.
She added that the legislation had “made parents and families accountable to services, it didn’t in any way make services accountable to parents”.
Dr Stuart Waiton, sociology and criminology lecturer at Abertay University, said the Named Person scheme undermines families and the idea of privacy. He spoke about the influence of early intervention and how it was a key driver of the Named Person scheme.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert spoke about the breadth and success of the NO2NP campaign and encouraged supporters to get involved.
The event finished with a lively question and answer session with NO2NP stalwarts Lesley Scott and Alison Preuss joining the panel.
Lesley and Alison also featured in an exclusive video, where they shared their experience of being involved in the campaign and the challenges that lie ahead.
The audience also viewed a moving video featuring two parents telling their stories about the Named Person scheme and the traumatic effect it had on their families.
Delegates were also encouraged to take armfuls of a new NO2NP leaflet, Parents’ Guide to the Named Person Scheme, which was launched at the event.
NO2NP will be holding a one-off special event, Named Persons: Doomed… or just delayed? in Edinburgh on Monday 20 March, 11:00am – 1:15pm.
Do you want the unique opportunity to question the QC behind the Supreme Court legal challenge?
Would you like to be clear about your legal rights following the Supreme Court judgment and get equipped to take action in your community?
Do you want to know how to make MSPs more responsive to the concerns of parents?
Then come along to this one-off free event and hear from key figures involved in opposing the Named Person scheme; including legal experts, parents and key members of the NO2NP campaign. BOOK NOW
Speakers will include:
- Aidan O’Neill QC – Leading human rights lawyer who acted on behalf of parties to the successful Named Person legal action
- Jim Sillars – Former deputy leader of the SNP, who said the Named Persons legislation was “riddled with ambiguity”.
- Kevin McKenna – Columnist regularly featured in The National, The Herald and The Guardian, who has warned against the “deeply flawed” Named Persons legislation
- Maggie Mellon – Independent social work consultant
- Dr Stuart Waiton – Sociology and criminology lecturer at Abertay University
During last week’s appeal hearing against the Named Person law, the Scottish Government’s QC told the court that if a young girl was in hospital and discovered to be pregnant then the Named Person would definitely be contacted…but didn’t seem to know whether the parents would be informed.
Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, was meant to be defending the scheme but instead managed to present a convincing case as to why the Named Person would be damaging for families.
Clark’s comments regarding teenage pregnancy reveal one of the major flaws with the Named Person scheme – it would bypass parents.
As we reported earlier in the week Clark also told judges during the hearing that the scheme was needed because every child in Scotland was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
This greatly undermines ordinary Scottish families and is chilling stuff from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Any Government scheme which puts parents in second place after the state in relation to their own children is flawed from the outset.
Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge, said the Named Person would be “a state functionary who has the power to interfere in the lives of every child in Scotland and in family life…the power to come between the child and their parents”.
He added that the Named Person’s powers to obtain and share confidential data on families without consent or veto constituted further interference.
The judges are currently considering their verdict, which is expected to take several weeks.
The Named Person provisions are contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament last year. The scheme is due to be rolled out across Scotland in 2016. Some areas of Scotland already have a non-statutory Named Person pilot scheme in operation but they do not have the full range of legal powers contained in the Act.
Last week’s appeal hearing rehearsed many concerning reasons why the Named Person scheme is not compatible with a free and democratic society, but perhaps the most revealing and worrying comment came from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Pressed by Lord Malcolm on why every child needed to have a Named Person, when not all of them were at risk, Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, stated that every child was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
Mr Clark’s words expose the thinking behind these intrusive plans.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “The assumption that all Scottish children are potentially vulnerable is patronising to all ordinary parents trying to do their best to bring up their children.
“The Scottish Government is saying to normal mums and dads that they all need the state to be a co-parent to stop them leaving their child potentially vulnerable.
“This unwarranted intrusion into family life is undermining and unnecessary.”
During the appeal hearing last week Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person, addressed conflict between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm.
He said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and said: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”
He said: “We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.
“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”
Mr O’Neill pointed out that the Named Person scheme had been drawn up to promote children’s ‘wellbeing’ – a concept which, according to the Government, can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”. He responded, “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.
Mr O’Neill raised the concern that the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best”.
The much anticipated legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person provisions got underway this week in Edinburgh’s Court of Session. Aidan O’Neill QC is representing the campaigners opposing the scheme and warns that plans for a Named Person for every child in Scotland is a “dangerous route to go down”.
See the latest news roundup on the court case:
Lawyer slams SNP’s state guardian project
Scottish Daily Express
Legal challenge to child guardian plan begins
Legal challenge to ‘named person’ bill starts
The Herald (£)
Named person legal challenge starts
Named guardian legal bid to start
Named persons legal bid to start
Press and Journal
Named persons legal bid to start
Challenge to child guardians law begins
The Times (£)
Named person legal challenge starts
Glasgow Evening Times