A top human rights lawyer has said the SNP’s plans to appoint a state guardian for every child under 18 “may be unlawful”.
Under Alex Salmond’s Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill 2013, children will have a “named person”- a state employee – who will monitor them and have powers that “cut across” the rights of their parents.
QC Aidan O’Neill said the SNP’s plans amounted to “unjustified interference” and may fail to protect people from “arbitrary and oppressive” governmental powers.
What is “startling” about the proposal “is that it 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.
He explained that the scheme may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which says the State should respect “private and family life”.
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.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, which obtained the legal opinion, said the Bill was a “monumental attack on orthodox family life”.
Every child’s “named person” will also be able to share information with a wide range of public authorities and intervene without parental consent.
According to the European Court of Human Rights, State interference in family life is only allowed in “exceptional cases”, O’Neill said.
In previous cases where a state’s powers has breached the ECHR, the European Court has ruled in favour of the family.
In his legal opinion, O’Neill cites a case in Germany where a couple with learning difficulties lost their daughters to foster care and the court ruled in their favour as the State had breached the ECHR.
A Daily Mail article commented “this is the kind of state intrusion” that one would expect in “dictatorships rather than Scotland”.