Swinney under fire for using misleading stats to defend Named Persons

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has been accused of using flawed statistics in his defence of the controversial Named Person scheme.

In September, John Swinney told MSPs that a pilot version of the scheme in Highland was responsible for a 68 per cent drop in referrals to the Children’s Reporter – the authority responsible for assessing child welfare concerns.

However, research by campaigners shows that referrals nationwide fell by a similar amount, and that many local authorities actually saw a bigger reduction.


The Scottish Government has consistently held up Highland Council’s Named Person pilot as evidence for the effectiveness of the scheme, which was due to be rolled out nationwide in August this year.

After a legal challenge spearheaded by The Christian Institute, the UK Supreme Court halted the legislation, ruling that key provisions within the plans allowed for the illegal data sharing of sensitive information about children and parents.

New Named Person legislation may still be put forward, but it would be impossible for it to operate in the way the Scottish Government originally intended.


Official figures for Highland Council show that between 2006-7 and 2013-14, referrals to the Children’s Reporter fell by 66.2 per cent – 1.8 per cent below former Finance Minister Swinney’s figure.

Over the same period, Scotland as a whole saw a reduction in referrals of 65.9 per cent – just short of Highland.

And referrals in Midlothian – which did not implement a pilot version of the Named Person scheme – dropped by 74.8 per cent over the same period.

‘Utopian claims’

Spokesman for the No to Named Persons campaign, Simon Calvert, accused Swinney of making “utopian claims” about Highland, in a vain attempt to justify the Scottish Government’s plans.

He said: “Many councils that were not running a Named Person pilot scheme saw bigger reductions in referrals than Highland. Yet ministers make utopian claims about Highland and hold it out as the model and inspiration for the national Named Person scheme.

“Whatever the reason for these reductions, it can’t have been the Named Person scheme”.

Law breached

On 28 July this year, judges ruled that the data sharing provisions of the legislation behind the Named Person scheme breached the right to a private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ruling came after a lengthy legal challenge by The Christian Institute, other charities and concerned parents.

Learn more about the Named Person scheme.

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