The UK Supreme Court has said the Scottish Government must pay The Christian Institute’s legal costs, after it was part of a successful court action against the controversial Named Person scheme.
The Government could eventually face a bill of up to £500,000, including its own costs, after the legal challenge was heard first in Scotland’s Court of Session and then the UK Supreme Court. This would be met by the taxpayer.
The award will not cover the almost £150,000 spent on non-legal costs for the No to Named Persons Campaign (NO2NP).
In July, the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in The Christian Institute and others v The Lord Advocate (Scotland), striking down the central provision of the Named Person scheme.
The legal costs incurred by the Scottish Government come on top of the £61 million allocated so far to the policy behind the Named Person scheme, which seeks to impose a state-appointed guardian on every child up to the age of 18.
NO2NP, which includes The Christian Institute, CARE, Tymes Trust and others, spent around £150,000 on a lengthy grassroots campaign against the plans.
Over the course of the campaign, the group uncovered evidence that named persons were abusing their powers in pilot versions of the scheme. This was presented during the court case.
Responding to the news Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said the “complacency” of ministers has led to an “extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money”.
Mr Hart said: “Scottish Government ministers knew of serious concerns about the Named Person scheme from a very early stage, and yet they chose to plough on regardless.
“All their energy was spent on public relations, not on getting the law right. They complacently swept aside concerns about legality from the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland.
“The result has been a protracted and costly legal battle, which ended with the concerns The Christian Institute and others raised being vindicated by the highest court in the land.
“Even on the day of the judgment John Swinney tried to spin the case as if the Government had won.
“If ministers had listened and sought to address obvious flaws in their legislation early on, this extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money would not have been incurred.”
Following the announcement, a spokesman for the Scottish Government described the Named Person scheme as “entirely legitimate”, adding that ministers remain “absolutely committed” to it.
Earlier this month, the Institute revealed that court action on the Named Person scheme could have been avoided if Scotland’s Lord Advocate had listened to concerns raised in 2014.
Before Named Person legislation completed its passage through Parliament, the Institute wrote to Frank Mulholland – the Scottish Government’s chief legal advisor at the time.
In-house Solicitor Sam Webster set out serious concerns over the information-sharing provisions in the legislation, and questioned whether it was within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
Strikingly, these exact concerns were upheld by the Supreme Court in its judgment in July. Read the full story here.
To find out more about the Named Person scheme and the case against it, visit our Named Person page.