Legislation will go forward after Supreme Court concerns are met
Much fought-over named person legislation will proceed in Scotland – despite a court setback.
Deputy first minister John Swinney made it clear in a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon that the Scottish Government will continue its efforts to bring the child protection measure into law.
Last July, the Supreme Court ruled against the legislation, citing concerns about information sharing.
However, crucially, in its judgement it confirmed that providing a named person as a point of contact and support for every child and their family would not breach human rights.
Opponents, who had appealed to the court, claimed the ruling had holed the legislation below the waterline – and called for it to be completely sunk.
The No2NP campaign – based around the Christian Institute and some small charities – has run a vociferous campaign, saying the proposed laws will undermine parents and give the state unlimited access to pry into the privacy of families in their homes.
However, Swinney has now confirmed that a bill clarifying good information-sharing practice will be introduced to parliament before the end of June, with a view to enacting it next year.
Given the Scottish Parliament’s arithmetic – with the Greens supporting the SNP over named person – it seems certain this will be passed now that steps have been taken to meet the Supreme Court’s concerns.
Swinney said: “The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to the named person service as a way to support children and their families. It ensures early support is available for all families because it’s simply impossible to predict if or when they might need extra help.
“Last year the Supreme Court ruled definitively that the intention of providing a named person for every child to promote and safeguard their wellbeing was “unquestionably legitimate and benign”.
“However, their judgment required us to change the provisions relating to information sharing. This has presented us with the opportunity to improve the service and reassure parents and practitioners and the wider public that it will work with and for families.
“Young people and families should have confidence that information will be shared only where this can be done in a manner which respects their rights under data protection law, human rights and the law of confidentiality.
“The approach I have set out today seeks to bring consistency, clarity and coherence to the practice of sharing information about children and young people’s wellbeing across Scotland.”
Major Scottish children's charities have backed the named person concept.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, welcomed Swinney’s statement to parliament.
He said: “We know from our service experience that many families need support from time to time.
“The named person policy will mean that families know who to turn to for information, advice or assistance, and will ensure that families have access to help as early as possible.
“Barnardo’s Scotland has been involved in the development of the named person policy over many years, and we welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the recent period of engagement by the deputy first minister and minister for childcare and early years.
“We are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the organisations and individuals who shared concerns about information sharing and that ministers have found a way to address the issues highlighted by the Supreme Court, ensuring that the named person policy can be implemented.
“The cabinet secretary has stated the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce new provisions to Parliament ahead of summer recess and we hope this will avoid any further delay to implementation.”
Named person opponents claimed Swinney’s amendments on information sharing as a victory for their campaign.
Simon Calvert, spokesman for No2NP, said: “However they try to spin it, this is a major climb down by the Scottish Government.
“It all goes to show what a complete waste of time and money it has been to try to create a system to allow officials to pass round confidential personal information on children and families almost at will.
“Today’s climb-down is a recognition of the reality of the Supreme Court defeat. It is a major victory for parents and for those in the No2NP campaign who brought the successful legal challenge.”