On this day: UK Supreme Court rules against Named Person scheme
On 28 July 2016, in the case of The Christian Institute and others v The Lord Advocate (Scotland) five UK Supreme Court judges unanimously struck down the central provisions of the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme.
The Court stated that the data sharing provisions in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 were in breach of the right to a private and family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also ruled that it had to be made clear that any advice offered by a named person is entirely optional.
‘State snooper’ scheme
In one devastating line from the judgment, the Supreme Court justices observed: “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.” [Paragraph 73]
The Court added that the named person’s wide discretionary powers to share confidential information on families were “incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)”.
The landmark ruling came more than two years after the Scottish Parliament had decided that every child in Scotland should have a ‘named person’ – a state official tasked with looking after their ‘wellbeing’, defined as “happiness”. In particular, the legislation required the named person to record and share confidential information concerning the wellbeing of children and their parents – prompting it to be dubbed the “State Snooper” scheme by the Scottish press.
The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world
It would still be another three years before the Scottish Government announced it was scrapping the unpopular law. But the strength of the judgment vindicated the lengthy legal action – spearheaded by the Institute – against the unlawful nature of the legislation.
In September 2019, Education Secretary John Swinney said the Government would repeal Parts 4 and 5 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, bringing a formal end to the statutory scheme.
At the time, Institute Director Colin Hart said: “Parents will be delighted and relieved at this news. For years we have said this scheme is wrong in principle. It is parents, rather than the state, who have the ultimate responsibility for raising children.
“The threshold for state intervention in the family has always been set high and it should remain that way.”