THE Scottish Government must change a piece of its named persons legislation after the Supreme Court in London ruled that some sections did not comply with human rights law.
While opponents demanded that the entire Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 be scrapped, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government will make the necessary changes to bring the Act into force as soon as possible.
The act was passed unopposed by the Scottish Parliament two years ago and was also supported by a majority of MSPs across parties during a parliamentary vote in June. With the SNP and Greens already pledged to support a suitably revised law, those calling for outright repeal are doomed to defeat.
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The Act was supposed to come into force on August 31, but the Scottish Government has been given 42 days to tell the Supreme Court what it intends to do make the law compliant.
The Supreme Court judges said the aim of the Act – to appoint a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of children under 18 – was legitimate but part 4 of the act dealing with the sharing of information about children was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which Scottish law must follow.
The judgement stated: “The public interest in the flourishing of children is obvious. The aim of the act, which is unquestionably legitimate and benign, is the promotion and safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and young persons.”
The court decided, however, that the information-sharing provisions in the scheme could result in disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights under the ECHR – the right to a family and private life.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that the Scottish Government “accepts named person ruling” and stated: “We will clarify info-sharing provisions and implement what court described as ‘legitimate’ policy.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “(The judgement) makes clear that the principle of providing a named person to support children and families does not breach human rights.
“The court’s ruling requires us to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professionals supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role.
“Ministers remain absolutely committed to the named person policy. We will start work on this immediately so we can make the necessary legislative amendments. The service will be implemented nationally at the earliest possible date.”
The Christian Institute, most publicised for its opposition to same sex marriage, co-ordinated the successful legal action and director Colin Hart said: “This is a devastating blow for the Scottish Government which sought to brush off all criticism of its named person scheme as ‘scaremongering’”.
“This strong endorsement of family autonomy will be welcomed by families all across the UK, including Christian families, who sometimes sense a creeping intolerance from government officials.”
Simon Calvert, spokesman for the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign group, claimed: “The Big Brother scheme is history.
“It’s wonderful news for mums, dads and children all across Scotland who no longer have to worry about this unjustified invasion of their private lives.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called the act “illiberal, invasive and deeply-flawed”, adding: “We have consistently argued against the named person legislation on grounds of principle and practicality. I hope today’s ruling will make the SNP stop and think again.”
Scottish Lib Dems education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “A recall of Parliament is the only way to ensure that reforms receive the scrutiny required.”
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “It is very good news that the named person legislation will go ahead following the Supreme Court ruling.
“The court has recognised that the aims of the legislation set out in part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 are reasonable and legitimate.
“The court was clear that there needs to be sufficient safeguards on when information is shared.
“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to ensure the Named Person service works effectively to support children and young people in Scotland.”
SNP MSP Rona Mackay said the Tories should stop their “over-the-top rhetoric” and accept the court’s findings.
Ross Greer MSP, the Scottish Greens’ education and skills spokesperson said: “Greens continue to support the named person scheme and it is positive that the UK Supreme Court has ruled this essential child protection scheme ‘unquestionably legitimate’. As I told the Scottish Parliament last month, the Scottish government must do more to build public confidence and better explain what named person means in practice.”