A lawyer representing the Scottish Government has conceded that there is no opt out to the controversial Named Person scheme, despite previous assurances that parents are under no obligation to engage with the named person.
Alistair Clark QC also told judges during last week’s appeal at Scotland’s highest court in Edinburgh that the presence of the Named Person law on the statute book “doesn’t interfere with human rights at all”.
The Christian Institute, CARE, Tymes (The Young ME Sufferers) Trust, Family Education Trust and concerned parents launched the legal action against the Named Person scheme in July last year.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Lesley Scott who represents Tymes Trust said having a named person assigned to every child is unnecessary.
She said this law is about “empowering the named person to police the happiness of Scottish children”.
She added that ‘wellbeing’ is a “much lower, broader, undefined threshold” to be met before state intervention into family life is allowed.
The Scottish Government is adding an “enormous bureaucratic burden” on teachers and health visitors, Scott also said.
Alistair Clark QC argued in court that there would be “at most minimal” interference in family life.
And in an apparent contradiction to previous Government assurances, he said allowing families to opt out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.
Last year, Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell said that the parent is “under no obligation to engage with the named person”.
Clark also told the court that the Named Person legislation is not restricted to protecting children at immediate risk of harm, saying we are “moving on” from that.
However last month First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed the scheme was about protecting “the most vulnerable children in our society”.
Responding on behalf of campaigners against the Named Person scheme, Aidan O’Neill QC refuted the argument that the Named Person would create no interference in private family life.
Power to interfere
He said there would be “a state functionary who has the power to interfere in the lives of every child in Scotland and in family life… the power to come between the child and their parents”.
He added that the Named Person’s powers to obtain and share confidential data on families without consent constituted further interference: “What we have heard is that this legislation has nothing to do with the protection of vulnerable children, because every child is potentially vulnerable.
“The basic aim is that the wellbeing of every child is to be promoted and safeguarded. That’s what parents do, that’s what parents are for.”
The judges, Lord Carloway, Lord Malcolm and Lord Bracadale have retired to consider their verdict, which is expected to take several weeks.
The Named Person scheme is part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which was passed at Holyrood last year.
The No to Named Persons campaign group (NO2NP) has launched a petition for people to show their opposition to the scheme.