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21 February 2014

Alliance Scotland speaks out against Named Person plans

The Scottish Parliament has passed a bill which will mean every child in Scotland has a legal guardian appointed for them. The Evangelical Alliance spoke out at the weekend against the plans and has warned it may well lead to a legal challenge.

Proposals to appoint a 'guardian' for every child were the most controversial part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill which passed on Wednesday. A specific named person from the NHS or council will be appointed to monitor every young person's well-being from birth until 18.

The state will provide this single point of contact (named person) for all children up to 18, initially health visitor (for 0 to five-year-olds) then Headteacher (for five to 18-year-olds). The Scottish Government have argued that this is to unify agency coordination, however critics have suggested it simply creates a fall guy for when things go wrong. The plan to introduce named persons is universal, with no provision for consent or right of withdrawal from either parent or child. This raises serious legal questions as to whether it interferes with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides for the right to a private and family life.

The Evangelical Alliance's national director for Scotland Fred Drummond was widely quoted commenting on the issue including on the BBC website, the Sunday Post, the Herald and the Scottish Sunday Express. He said: "While we do not doubt the government's sincere intentions behind this bill, these proposals raise serious concerns about the role of the state in modern Scotland, have massive implications for the role of parents and appear to be begging for a fight in the law courts as some parents may wish to challenge it, because it is not immediately apparent whether it is lawful under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)."

Other Christian groups including the Church of Scotland and the Christian Institute also registered their concerns about the proposals, including that the bill could diminish the position of parents in society.

Following the passage of the bill Kieran Turner, the Alliance's public policy officer in Scotland, commented on the proposals on Newsnight. "What happens if the named person, the head teacher, then disagrees with a stance that parents have taken?" He went on to ask: "If there is a conflict in some way a parent is bringing up their children does the named person have a right to interfere?"