Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed during a BBC interview that the Supreme Court did not say the Named Person policy was illegal or breached human rights.
She maintained the Government spin that the bulk of the scheme is unaffected by their defeat in the Supreme Court, downplaying the court defeat as “a particular concern upheld in the Supreme Court around the data-sharing aspects of this”.
If only she had read the judgment for herself:
“the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).
“one of the principal purposes [of the Named Person law]… was to alter the existing law in relation to the sharing of information about children and young people, so as to enable information about concerns about their wellbeing” (para. 4).
“the information-sharing provisions … are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the ECHR because they are not ‘in accordance with the law’ … may in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information … the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (para. 106).
“…since the defective provisions are not within the legislative competence of the Parliament, they cannot be brought into force” (para. 109).
Still claiming it’s about child protection
The First Minister said her Government was “determined” to “progress with this policy … because it is about trying to protect children”. But even arch loyalists like Alistair Gaw have admitted the Named Person is “not about child protection”.
The First Minister also claimed she wanted to act “in a way that brings people together and addresses people’s concerns as we go”. Her Deputy First Minister’s refusal to consult with anyone who doesn’t agree with his policy doesn’t augur well for this.
As BBC Scotland’s political editor says to the First Minister, “Folk are still not very happy with this.”
The media and the Government know we are not going away. Let’s keep up the pressure.
The latest episode of BBC’s Question Time was presented from Aberdeen on Thursday. The panel was asked by a member of the audience: “Is the Named Person scheme an unacceptable intrusion by the state into family life?”
Question Time presenter David Dimbleby commented: “I think this is a fascinating topic.” Attempting to explain the concept of Named Persons to English and Welsh viewers he said, “by law every family will have to name somebody outside the family to ‘look after, offer advice or support’ when asked, about every child”.
But Dimbleby was quickly interrupted by panellist Merryn Somerset Webb, MoneyWeek editor, who corrected him saying, “no, no, you don’t name them… the state names them for you, the state gives you a Named Person”, to which Dimbleby replied: “The state gives you one? …it gets stranger and stranger” – a comment that was greeted with applause from the audience.
Humza Yousaf MSP, the SNP’s Minister for Europe, tried to argue that Named Persons would only be able to give advice “when or if the parent needs it”, a claim previously expressed by the First Minister.
Yousaf claimed: “Some of the hyperbole around this, some of the misconceptions around this, are not only vacuous, but frankly put children’s lives in danger”.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “Parents who have read the guidance and made their own minds up about Named Persons don’t like being told their concerns are ‘vacuous’ and ‘hyperbole’. Parents in pilot scheme areas who have found out that their Named Person has been compiling dossiers on them behind their backs about trivial issues have every right to be concerned. Politicians need to respect the views of parents, not belittle them.
“The hyperbole isn’t coming from parents, it’s coming from the defenders of the scheme who are resorting to hyperbole because they know they are losing the argument. There was a huge reaction from the Question Time audience as soon as the Named Person was mentioned. People hate it. They hate state monitoring of parenting. They hate having their personal data shared at will. And they hate the way their relationships with health visitors and teachers are being poisoned by the new duties this legislation puts on them.
“It is an absolute outrage to accuse people who disagree with a particular Government policy of ‘putting children’s lives at risk’. People are allowed to have reasonable differences of opinion about the best way of protecting children without being accused of being complicit in child deaths. The fact is, many professionals and parents fear the Named Person approach will pull resources away from children who really need them, and stretch the safety net even thinner. Police Scotland themselves warned about this over a year ago and we haven’t heard a single word from the Government in response to their warnings.
“Humza Yousaf is defending a different scheme to the one his Government actually legislated for. It’s astonishing he doesn’t know that the legislation does not require parental consent. It allows the Named Person to act ‘where the Named Person considers it to be appropriate’. And the sharing of confidential data on families can take place without their knowledge, let alone their consent.
“Parents who were already engaging with services, like those whose children have special needs, asked the Government for a single point of contact, a Lead Professional, so they don’t have to talk to multiple agencies. Instead, what they got was a Named Person, someone with a legal duty to monitor them and legal power to grab their confidential data. That’s like asking for an accountant and getting an HMRC investigation instead.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of sending “mixed messages” in her claim that the Named Person scheme is “not mandatory”.
During an interview with BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor, the First Minister commented on the Named Person scheme, saying: “It’s not compulsory, it’s an entitlement, not an obligation. If the parent doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Named Person scheme they don’t have to… It’s not mandatory.”
There has been a backlash in the press and from the public urging the First Minister to clarify her statement, which contradicts the Government’s own QC, who told the Court of Session that to allow an opt-out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.
A NO2NP spokesman told the press: “If the First Minister thinks the Named Person scheme is ‘not mandatory’ then she has been very badly misled by her advisers.”
“When she realises how inaccurate the advice from officials has been I imagine heads will roll. They’ve made her look very silly because she may be the only person in Scotland who doesn’t know that the Named Person scheme contains no opt-outs and no provision for parental consent. It is, on any ordinary understanding of the word, mandatory.
“Given how unpopular the scheme is, it is highly convenient for the First Minister to say it’s not compulsory. Sadly it just doesn’t happen to be true.”
The phrase ‘opt out’ appears absolutely nowhere in the legislation. The concept of parental consent is also entirely absent.
A Named Person will be appointed for every child in Scotland. They will have legal power to obtain your confidential family data without your consent or knowledge. They will have a legal duty to monitor your child’s happiness whether you want them to or not, and power to bring in other agencies to deal with your child without your consent. If that’s not mandatory, what is?
The frightening reality is that refusal to engage with a Named Person could well be treated by the authorities as a red flag leading officials to escalate concerns about a family. This increases the likelihood that child protection powers will be invoked to allow coercive intervention in the life of the family. So telling a Named Person you want to be left alone to take care of your own family could be the very thing they use against you to justify intervention.
If the scheme was voluntary, it would be fine. Parents who want help would know where to go to get it. But the Named Person law is universal – appointing a Named Person, with all their powers, over every child, with no opt-out, no right to confidentiality, and no requirement for parental consent.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist at Abertay University, called on the First Minister to clarify her statement.
He commented: “Named persons are being trained in a particular way to measure children’s progress and development and it is going to be very difficult for parents to reject their ‘advice’ – many will fear that rejection could count against them.
“By bringing in a kind of parental support agency, and suggesting that there is a ‘rulebook’ for parenting that must be adhered to, the Scottish Government risks undermining the authority of parents.”
Even those supporting the Named Person scheme are failing to coherently answer basic queries about the plans.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Alan Small, Chair of Fife Child Protection Committee, faced questions from presenter Kaye Adams about the catch-all, intrusive nature of the legislation.
Attempting to defend the scheme, Small said people understand that “at times” families need somebody to turn to, but Adams pointed out that it is unclear to what extent the Named Person will have the power or inclination to interfere or pry into family life.
When asked if a parent can hang up the phone on the Named Person and say they’re not interested, Small responded with an unconvincing “No. Er… Yes and No”. Hesitating, he said “it all needs to be taken into context with the needs of the child”.
This caused Adams to ask: “But who decides the needs of the child?”
To which Small asserted that it would be public services and the Named Person who decide.
Adams continued to probe asking: “And where’s the parent in that?”
Avoiding the question, Small instead spoke about “proportionality”, which he says is an important word to be used when discussing the scheme, but he was unable to explain what the word actually meant when pressed by Adams.
Adams said: “Define for me proportionality.”
Small replied: “I actually don’t think there is a definition suitable for proportionality… er… proportionality is fairly well understood in public services…”
During a BBC Radio Scotland debate last week Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust, a supporter of NO2NP, warned that the Scottish Government’s plan was about “empowering the Named Person to police the happiness of Scottish children”.
Scott was debating Alex Cole-Hamilton, Head of Policy at children’s charity Aberlour and a proponent of the Named Person scheme. Cole-Hamilton failed to give a single example of how the Named Person scheme had made a positive impact when pressed by BBC presenter Kaye Adams.
Adams asked Cole-Hamilton: “What was happening that made anyone feel that this was necessary? Where was the gap? Where was the lack?”
Referring to the Highlands pilot he responded saying there had been “some really good examples of this drawing the threads together”.
Adams however said drawing the threads together was an “airy fairy expression” and asked for further clarification.
She pressed Cole-Hamilton again, saying: “Give me a positive example of where this has made a child or a family’s life better?
Cole-Hamilton again failed to provide a single example, but instead admitted it was about “prevention”.
He said: “I don’t have specific case examples to give you because this is all about prevention.”
Listen to the full exchange from 7 minutes 10 seconds
TYMES Trust’s Lesley Scott refuted Cole-Hamilton’s claims about the Named Person creating a single point of contact. She said parents already know who they need to go to if there is a problem, they already know who their child’s teacher, GP or health visitor is. These are all people who are already in place, she added.
Scott explained that the Named Person can access and share confidential medical data and school records. She continued: “They can question a child and give them advice, and supply services to them without the parents’ consent, and on the basis of what they think is most likely to make them happy”.
Scott also pointed out that the scheme was not about identifying significant risk or harm but about wellbeing, which is “a lower, broader undefined threshold”.
Scott also questioned how the scheme will work in practice. She raised concerns about the “enormous bureaucratic burden of the Named person” scheme on teachers and health visitors, who would be expected to administer the scheme, professions which she says are already at breaking point.
She said looking for children at risk is like looking for a needle in a haystack but all the Named Person scheme is doing is making the haystack bigger.
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
Legal papers challenging the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans were lodged at Edinburgh’s Court of Session yesterday. There is widespread opposition to the proposals and concerned parents and other groups turned up to help deliver the documents under the spotlight of the media.
Here is a round up of the news reports.
Scottish child guardian bid faces legal challenge
SNP’s state guardian plan is ‘against the law’ say court challengers
Scottish Daily Express
Nationalists’ nanny state must leave families alone
Scottish Daily Express
Legal bid to scrap the state snoopers
Scottish Daily Mail
Opponents of ‘named person’ policy begin legal challenge
The Telegraph (Scotland)
Dangerous move by the state
The Press and Journal
Legal bid to tackle Scots guardian bill
The Press and Journal
Challenge to guardian law in court
The Courier & Advertiser
Child guardian challenge lodged
The Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra
Video: Named Person legal action launched
The Christian Institute
The Named Person issue was debated extensively on BBC Sunday Politics Scotland over the weekend, with presenter Gordon Brewer putting pressure on the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, to explain the need for this intrusive proposal.
Watch the clip
The Director of The Christian Institute, which is part of the NO2NP campaign, also took part in the discussion saying the Named Person scheme would make it much more difficult to target resources at vulnerable children.
Other guests on the show included Gavin Brown, a Conservative MSP, opposed to the legislation.
Lesley Scott, who represents a charity providing support services for families with children suffering from ME and whose own son suffers from ME, was also interviewed on the show about her concerns over the Named Person scheme. You can watch an interview she did with NO2NP here.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, which is preparing to mount a Judicial Review, said: “The Scottish Government has passed a Bill which gives huge powers to Named Persons to advise and talk to children without their parents even knowing about it and without their consent. And it seems to me a sledge hammer to crack a nut.”
“The same state bodies will be involved in looking for all these families where there’s no issue at all, so instead of actually finding that needle in the haystack they are actually making that haystack much bigger. And that’s going to make it much more difficult to find the vulnerable children”.