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28 July 2016

Supreme wisdom on named persons

Supreme wisdom on named persons

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish government's plans to introduce Named Persons for children is incompatible with human rights legislation.

The scheme, which would appoint someone – probably a teacher or health visitor – to oversee the welfare of every child in Scotland, had been widely opposed as undermining the rights of families.

Christian groups, including the Christian Institute and Alliance member CARE, have been actively involved in the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign which brought this legal challenge.

Simon Calvert, speaking for NO2NP, commented following the judgment: "This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal.

"This ruling means the Scottish government has been blocked from implementing this scheme on 31 August. It must scrap its plan for state snoopers with intrusive data sharing powers. It has to go back to the legislative drawing board."

The Alliance spoke out against the plans when the legislation was passed in 2014, questioning the legality of the plans and the impact on family rights.

Speaking after the judgment halting the implementation Kieran Turner, public policy officer for the Alliance in Scotland, said: "At the Evangelical Alliance we've always recognised the good intentions behind this bill and the desire to protect children and young people.

"But we have been deeply concerned about the potential impact on family life, the scope of information sharing proposed, and crucially what happens when parents disagree with a named person about their child's wellbeing."

The Court found that the Scottish government's plans on information sharing may have resulted in disproportionate information sharing in a way that would breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which secures the right to respect for private and family life.

In the unanimous judgement the Supreme Court justices commented: "The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get to the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers' view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way."

The legislation will not now come into force at the end of August as had been expected with the Court giving the Scottish government 42 days to address their concerns.

It is expected that the Scottish government will continue to attempt to introduce this policy. John Swinney, deputy first minister responded to the court's finding by saying: "The court's ruling requires us to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professional supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role.

"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."

Kieran Turner went on to comment: "The Scottish government has consistently failed to reassure parents across Scotland about the scope and detailed outworking of the bill and we're pleased the Supreme Court's decision will ensure that the Scottish government must address these concerns.

"Today's judgement has struck a wise balance on this issue and we will be watching with interest to see whether the Scottish government is able to bring forward amendments that will ensure the Article 8 rights of parents and children are lawfully protected."