THE Scottish Government’s named person legislation came under attack from the right-wing press yesterday after claims that taxi drivers carrying children in the Borders will be expected to report “conversations to their state guardians”.

The Daily Mail suggested this was a “stasi-like interference into family life,” a reaction SNP MSP Mark McDonald said was “a giant pile of sensationalist codswallop.”

Effectively taxi drivers with contracts for transporting children will be expected to alert the authorities if they hear children talk about abuse or anything else worrying. Although the Tories and the Daily Mail do not support the named person proposal, it has support from all the other political parties and just about every children’s charity in Scotland.

What is this legislation?

Every child in Scotland will have access to a named person from birth until they turn 18 years old. For most children the named person will be a health visitor or a teacher. For most the new role is quite similar to roles they already perform. The governments say the named person is there to help young people who may have short-term difficulties, “as a result of illness, bereavement or moving school”, as well as those with long-term condition. The named person will “be available to listen, advise and help a child or young person and their family, providing direct support or helping them to access other services.” It is essentially about joining services up and trying to prevent situations becoming more serious.

Why are people opposed?

A coalition of charities – the Christian Institute, Family Education Trust, The Young ME Sufferers Trust and Care (Christian Action Research and Education) – took the government to court over the policy along with parents James and Rhianwen McIntosh, from Bonnybridge, and Deborah Thomas, from Comrie. They argued that it was a breach of human and constitutional rights and amounted to “unjustifiable interference by the state”. Their case was thrown out.

Who backs the legislation?

Parenting Across Scotland, Action for Children, Aberlour, Barnardo’s Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, Children 1st, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), One Parent Families Scotland, Scottish Childminding Association, Quarriers, Royal College of Nursing and the NSPCC have all thrown their weight behind the plan.

A roll-out of the scheme in the Highlands has seen some immediate short-term benefits for children and families, the charities say. In a briefing to MSPs the charities say it has meant “issues, when they arise, are dealt with more effectively, with less material passed to the children’s reporter”.