Scotland’s First Minister has vowed to press on with her Government’s beleaguered Named Person scheme, despite fierce criticism by MSPs, the media and campaigners.
At Holyrood yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon was confronted by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who said MSPs had “joined the public in no longer having confidence in the named person plans”.
Davidson described the scheme as “broken” and advocated an alternative approach, saying: “We should focus resources on those who actually need it, rather than having blanket interference for every family in Scotland”.
‘Head in the sand’
Responding to the attack, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government will proceed with its named person plans”.
In recent days, her Government has been accused of adopting a “head-in-the-sand approach” to criticism of the scheme.
On Wednesday, a majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee voted to block progress of the Government’s named person legislation until an “authoritative” data-sharing code of practice is produced.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he cannot produce a code until September next year, which means it is highly unlikely the scheme will be introduced before 2019.
Swinney was criticised for his response to the committee, with MSPs accusing him of ‘throwing his weight around’ and trying to bully members into progressing the Bill.
In a blog post on the fallout, Labour MSP Iain Gray, who sits on the Education Committee, wrote: “Today the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee did its job. It scrutinised a government Bill”.
“All of the non-SNP members of the committee today refused to be intimidated and stood up to the education secretary”, he added.
Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott also spoke out saying: “No committee will be told what to do by a government minister who throws his weight around”.
This week, newspapers including The Herald – which initially championed the Named Person scheme – ran heavily critical stories.
A Herald article on the plans appeared under the headline ‘Controversial Named Persons plan stopped in its tracks’, while The Scotsman ran with ‘SNP’s Named Person scheme on brink of collapse’.
An editorial by The Times described the Named Person scheme as “impractical, impossible to measure and hard to justify”.
And The Scottish Daily Mail lambasted John Swinney, saying he should “conclude the game is finally up”.
Spokesman for campaign group No to Named Persons (NO2NP), Simon Calvert, commented: “When will the Government admit defeat and drop the scheme altogether?”