Plans to assign every child in Scotland a state guardian could lead to good parents being penalised, an academic has warned ahead of a final vote on the issue in Holyrood later this month.
Sociology lecturer Dr Stuart Waiton said the “secrecy” inbuilt in the SNP’s proposals – which would give children a ‘named person’ to monitor their progress – is a “cause for concern”.
“It will take very little to trigger an investigation into a child and from there a false picture can easily be arrived at”, he said.
He said innocent aspects of a child’s life such as what they eat or the views they express can make “good parents fair game” in the eyes of “health and safety zealots, obsessed with risk management”.
“It is incredible just how far the state is interfering in the lives of Scots”, he added.
A leading human rights lawyer has warned that under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, a child’s named person – a state employee – would have powers that “cut across” the rights of their parents.
Aidan O’Neill QC said in a legal opinion that the scheme may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which says the state should respect “private and family life”.
Mr O’Neill also described the Bill as “universal in scope” and said the “blanket” provisions allow the state to assign a guardian without assessing a child’s individual need.
He said it is “startling” that the proposal “appears to be predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents”, he added.
Under the Bill a named person would be able to share information with a wide range of public authorities and intervene without parental consent.
Currently, information can be shared without parental consent only if there is a danger of significant harm, but the Bill would enable data to be passed on to a named person without permission if there is a risk to a child’s “wellbeing”.
Nick Pickles, of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “This whole scheme is an unprecedented attack on the privacy of families and the civil liberties of law-abiding parents and children.”
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill reaches stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament on 19 February, when MSPs will vote on it for the final time.