In February last year, the devolved Scottish Parliament brought into existence the NamedPersons Scheme, by passing the ‘Children and Young People (Scotland) bill’. Out of the 128 MSP’s present for the vote, 103 voted in favour, with 15 abstentions. This translated to all of the (then) 69 SNP MSP’s, all of the (then) 37 Labour MSP’s, all 5 of the Liberal Democrat MSP’s, both of the Green Party MSP’s, and the sole (at the time) Independent MSP… All 15 Conservative MSP’s abstained. In fact, the only party that openly opposed and defied this heinous act was, ironically, UKIP – the only major party in Scotland currently unrepresented in Holyrood. This collusion of the other parties had a help in hand in passing a bill that permits the Scottish Government to spy on every family in Scotland. And whilst they share their part of the blame, the plaudits must still go to the SNP, the proponents for this proposal.
At a glance, the Named Persons Scheme doesn’t sound all that bad. It assigns children with a responsible, accountable adult who they can confide in, and who can act as a conduit between parents, schools and the authorities. Its intention, at least at the start, is to protect Scotland’s children.
Sadly, however, it’s far more complicated than that. Unlike most bad government legislature, the problem with the Named Persons Scheme doesn’t come from the idea itself, but rather the extent of the powers, and the implementation of the act. Unlike child protection legislation in most other democratic and free societies, the named person’s scheme does not take into account the individual. In the initial evaluation, all are deemed to be ‘at risk’, and so worthy of evaluation into their parenting suitability and capability. In this model, no distinction is made between an abusive parent and World’s Best Mum. It operates on the twisted, sick, assumption that all children are at risk from their parents, and all parents are liable to subject their child to abuse.
But it doesn’t stop there. As it stands, every child will be assigned a named person. The parent of that child has no immediate right to know the name or identity of this person, and that named person has the power, and legal ‘right’, to approach another person’s child, without their consent or prior knowledge, and question them on a range of intrusive and personal criteria. Ranging from life at home, the kinds of meals mums cook, what daddy gets up to at the weekend – and even sexuality and issues that really ought to be down to the parents. The list of powers and responsibilities even outreaches that of the police, with the named person having the authority to enter your home without a warrant, interview your child away from your presence and without your consent, and to remove your child, for *any* reason, to a home. And I do mean any reason. They don’t even have to justify it or tell the parent why.
If that isn’t enough, we move onto the simple fact that their role and extent of their control is still not clearly defined, other than being a state appointed spy. And that is the scariest aspect of all. It has been suggested that the named person will have the sole power and responsibility to make a judgement call on a child’s life, and deem them as being exposed to extremism or radicalism. Far from covering the radical extremes of hard-line religion, or extreme right/left political parties, this power is an umbrella responsibility that could be used to remove a child from a home for any reason at all. Maybe Mam is a member of UKIP, maybe Dad likes to sing with the Green Brigade. Maybe the child’s uncle likes to dress up at the weekend. The list goes on, and is potentially endless.
And then there is the hypocrisy of the whole thing. The party that proposed this horrific plan was the very same party that campaigns on a ticket of ‘freedom’. And the same party that implemented votes for 16 year olds – Yet, under these plans, civil liberties are being shackled in ways that would make even Communist China turn its head, and 16 and 17 year olds (people who are deemed old enough to join the Army, get married, jet a job and now vote), will STILL be accountable to their named person. Whether they like it or not. Will they have to submit a marriage request to their named person? Should they join the military, will their named person go with them, and make sure the Corporal is not too mean?
Quite aside from the implications of the rights of parents and powers of the individual, this raises a very serious and dangerous issue. This legislation will surely result in congestion in social services, whilst Named Persons are focused on berating parents who give their kids too much fizzy juice on a Sunday, how many children that really need help will slip through the gaps, unseen and unheard, failed by a system that is designed to watch all, but save none? Wouldn’t it be far, far better to use the resources of this scheme, restructuring it into something more worthwhile, and have it serviced to focus only on certain families, looking out for children who really need it, rather than impose on decent, hard working Scots?
Already, the Named Persons Scheme is being trialled in local authorities across Scotland, and soon to be the norm from Stranraer to Shetland. The idea that parents might lose the right to be parents, is scary enough. But the fact that most are doing so either willingly, or without even knowing it, is downright terrifying. If something isn’t done soon, it will be impossible to reverse this decision, and condemn Scotland to the shackles of an Orwellian style state.