Named Persons based on ‘dubious philosophy’, warns Scots editor

Alex Massie, Scotland Editor of The Spectator and a regular columnist in The Times, has raised concerns about the “dubious philosophy” influencing the Named Person scheme.

Massie, in a comment piece for The Times, said: “Giving every child in Scotland a named person responsible for, at least to some degree, their welfare subtly changes the social contract between the state and its citizens. It redefines the game.”

Whilst acknowledging that most parents “may never have any dealings with their child’s named person”, he commented, “but that is not entirely relevant”.

He said: “The point is that the state now operates, officially, on the presumption that every child might be at risk, because you can never be too sure, or too safe.

“If there is no immediate presumption of guilt, there remains the presumption that you could be guilty. So better to be safe than sorry”.

“That”, Massie states, “is a much larger change in philosophy than the government is prepared to admit”.

He said: “The government is at pains to assure us that the legislation is largely symbolic; a reiteration of “best practice” methods and unlikely to have much, if any, impact on the vast majority of parents. It will hardly be noticed. In which case, you may ask, is it really worth pursuing?”

Affirming the importance of “symbolism”, he remarks: “The message sent to the citizens by their government is not a trivial concern. It tells us something about our society”.

Massie says the message the Government is sending in this instance is that it “does not trust the people”.

“The named person provision, it seems, crosses an important line”, he asserts.

Massie continues: “The existing safety net that is supposed to check vulnerable children is as valuable as it is depressingly necessary. No one of sense wishes to see it removed.”

But he emphasises: “There remains a difference, however, between a safety net and a surveillance system. I am sure ministers and children’s charities are sincere when they insist that the named person provision is well intentioned and, as much as anything else, box-ticking. Nevertheless, it is also something else, and that something else is more sinister.

Seemingly unconvinced by the Named Person proposals, Massie says: “You need not be a libertarian in a tinfoil hat — though I have my moments in that regard — to feel a frisson of unease about this. Equally, you need not be a fervent believer in the laws of slippery slopes to appreciate that once implemented, the duties required of the named person are more likely to grow with time than be trimmed by prudence”.

He adds: “Of course, the idea is justified by the age-old claim that ‘if it saves one vulnerable life’ then it will be worth it. This too is well intentioned, but it misses the point. No one wishes to endanger at-risk children, but it’s justified to think that there is already a large and complex system designed to minimise those risks. But sometimes, appallingly, that system proves insufficient.

Massie concluded: “If you consider the odds, and human nature, then the designated role in schools will prove insufficient in the future. The named person proposal is, like other government initiatives such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, likely to prove both heavy handed and inadequate. That’s bad enough but not nearly as bad as its philosophical shortcomings. It is the government’s society, you see, and you just live here”.

Massie was commenting off the back of the recent news that a teacher who served as a Named Person for 200 pupils had been struck off the teaching register after being found guilty of child sex offences.

Original article “State guardians for an untrustworthy society”, published: Tuesday, 02 February 2016, The Times

Media round up this week: w/b 29th June

Pressure has been mounting on the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme this week, with a succession of media stories reporting serious concerns about the plans.

Teachers worry about increased workload as named person for pupils
Herald Scotland, 03 July 2015

Herald teachers worried

Minister falters over SNP “state snoopers” plan
Scottish Daily Mail, 03 July 2015
DM - minister falters over NP on radio phone in

Child plan could make risk harder to spot, police warn
The Times, 03 July 2015

Scottish Government under pressure over ‘state guardian’ plan
Scottish Daily Telegraph, 02 July 2015

Ken Macintosh demands review of Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015

Police Scotland criticise SNP Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015

Outrage over £100k PR bill to promote ‘state snoopers’
Scottish Daily Mail, 01 July 2015

Confusion over plans to appoint ‘named person’ for every child in Scotland
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015

Front page Herald 1st July

Herald View — Getting it right for youngsters
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015

Named person plans clarity sought
Press and Journal, 01 July 2015

Listen: Callers flood BBC with opposition to Named Person plans
No2NP, 03 July 2015

Scots toddlers may be sent to state-run “development centres”

Recent articles in The Times and The Mail on Sunday reported that toddlers could be placed in state-run “development centres” under plans “to give the Scottish government more control over how future generations are raised”.

The Government says the proposals are designed to help underprivileged children, but critics warn that any plans to increase the role of the state in childcare could erode the rights of parents.

Proposals include sending officials into homes to check if children have sufficient access to books and toys, and offering parenting courses.

Families found to fall foul of Government testing could see their children being sent to child development centres for up to 30 hours a week from the age of 12 months.

A NO2NP spokesman said: “This is yet another layer of the ‘nanny state’. The vast majority of parents need neither support nor interference from outside bodies and should be trusted and left alone to do what they do best: look after their own children.”

The Mail on Sunday, 29 March 2015
The Times, 30 March 2015

Media Coverage of the Named Person legal action

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
The Scotsman

Legal challenge to ‘named person’ bill starts
The Herald (£)

Named person legal challenge starts
The Courier

Named guardian legal bid to start
BBC News

Named persons legal bid to start
Press and Journal

The scale of opposition to the child guardian plan suggests the SNP has got it wrong
The Telegraph

Named persons legal bid to start
The Courier

Legal fight starts over SNP ‘state guardian for every child’
The Telegraph

Challenge to child guardians law begins
The Times (£)

Named person legal challenge starts
Glasgow Evening Times