Rules on data sharing under the embattled Named Person scheme are so complicated, teachers and health visitors will need ‘legal degrees’ to understand them, MSPs have heard.
This week, Deputy First Minister John Swinney was grilled on a code of practice which is supposed to guide named persons on sharing sensitive information about children.
And giving evidence to MSPs, representatives of Scotland’s top legal organisations attacked the code for its complexity.
During a meeting of Holyrood’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee on Tuesday, Conservative MSP Alison Harris put it to Swinney that teachers – who would become named persons under the legislation – will “require somewhat of a legal degree to read the code of practice”.
Later in the week, in an Education Committee session, Kenny Meechan, of the Law Society of Scotland, described the code as “misleading at best”.
He said it would require a “deeper level of understanding” by named persons adding, “They will need their lawyer on speed dial”. Janys Scott QC, of the Faculty of Advocates, also hit out at the code saying:
“The thought of a primary teacher sitting down at four o’clock in the middle of marking a load of books and thinking this one through without help and trying to make their way through a code of practice on things which I, as a lawyer, would find difficult in the knowledge that if they get it wrong, it’s going to be raised in a court of law, that strikes me as something which would be unattractive”.
Responding to MSPs’ criticisms, Swinney agreed to consider their views but maintained that the final version would be his decision.
Members of the Scottish Parliament will be allowed a vote on revised Named Person legislation but not the code of practice surrounding it.
Simon Calvert, of the campaign group No to Named Persons (NO2NP), said it is a “disgrace” that the Deputy First Minister is failing to listen to concerns.
The Scottish Government is attempting to revise its Named Person scheme after central data sharing provisions were struck down by the UK Supreme Court last year.
Judges ruled that central elements of the scheme contravened human rights legislation.
In recent months, critics have repeatedly called for the Scottish Government to abandon the scheme altogether.
The Scottish Government allocated more than £60 million to the plans, before they were halted and the Government ordered to pay up to £500,000 in legal costs.