A senior Roman Catholic bishop has warned that Scotland’s controversial Named Person scheme could lead to “unwarranted interference in family life”.
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley’s comments echo the fears of campaigners who are challenging the Named Person legislation.
A two-day appeal hearing at the Inner House of the Court of Session began yesterday.
The legal challenge has been brought by The Christian Institute, Christian charity CARE, Tymes (The Young ME Sufferers) Trust, the Family Education Trust and concerned parents.
Archbishop Cushley said: “The common good of society depends on the stability of family life.
“We share the widely expressed reservations of many who fear some provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act could permit unwarranted interference in family life due to the broad nature of the powers of the ‘named persons service’ and the low threshold set for triggering the sharing of information about children among state agencies.
Autonomy and privacy
“While recognising the good intentions behind such efforts, we hope the Government will act in a proportionate and focused way, with due respect to the autonomy and privacy of the family.”
He said that the threshold for “intervening in family life” should be only when “objective and significant cause” is shown.
Archbishop Cushley first made the comments last year, which were reported in the Scottish Catholic Observer and picked up by the Scottish Daily Mail this week.
The newspaper said Archbishop Cushley was “absolutely correct” to assert that the “common good of society depends on the stability of family life”.
The editorial continued: “Why, with the stakes so high, won’t the SNP cease its headlong rush and consider for a moment that – no matter how well-intentioned it may be – the party could be on the verge of making a grave mistake?”
Speaking ahead of the appeal hearing, spokesman for The Christian Institute Simon Calvert said: “The named person is, in effect, legally empowered to police the happiness of Scottish children.
“That is an outrage. Thousands of people across Scotland know it is an outrage, and that’s why they’ll all be hoping our judicial review succeeds.”
A charity that provides legal help for children has also raised concerns that young people will be deterred from seeking help when they most need it.
Clan Child Law said: “There is a serious risk that the overriding of confidentiality when there is no child protection concern will lead to children being reluctant to engage with confidential services, which will ultimately be to their detriment as they will be unable to access the help they need.”