The Scottish Government has announced that its flagship Named Person legislation will be substantially revised.
In a statement to MSPs yesterday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the plans would be delayed by at least a year – an acknowledgement of the time required to undertake a wholesale rewriting of the law.
He was responding to the historic Supreme Court judgment in the case of The Christian Institute and others v The Lord Advocate (Scotland) which found the Named Person scheme to be unlawful.
In July Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that key information sharing provisions in the legislation contravene human rights law.
At that time Swinney claimed only ‘tweaks’ were required to answer the court’s concerns and that the scheme would still be rolled out in a matter of weeks.
Yesterday, a chastened Mr Swinney announced a delay of a least a year to provide sufficient time for the scale of revision needed to make the scheme lawful.
He also promised a twelve-week consultation process with parents and professionals including, for the first time, those opposed to the Named Person legislation.
However, Swinney said the Scottish Government remains “absolutely committed” to the Named Person scheme.
He also maintained his claim that the Supreme Court ruling had “vindicated” the Scottish Parliament’s decision to pass the legislation and accused opponents of ‘peddling misinformation’.
Critics welcomed the pledge to consult but said the Scottish Government needed to go much further.
A spokesman for the No to Named Persons campaign (NO2NP) said: “Having spent years encouraging the widespread illegal sharing of sensitive personal data, they should now be doing everything they can to put a stop to it. Will they launch an inquiry to discover what has already taken place and stamp it out?”
Head of Communications at The Christian Institute Ciarán Kelly commented: “The Supreme Court said very clearly that the kind of routine sharing of personal information the Scottish Government wanted is unlawful. It is a breach of human rights and cannot go ahead.
“John Swinney has decided to engage in damage limitation and portray the Supreme Court’s ruling as a vindication of the scheme. I think most people can see the reality is vastly different.
“He can no longer claim that this intrusive legislation just needs to be ‘tweaked’.
“Whatever sort of Named Person scheme reappears a year or more from now, it will be a shadow of the intrusive, Big Brother scheme the court struck down.
“In the end, the only thing that might be left is the name itself.”