If you talk to the average parent in Scotland today, you will be painted quite an unsettling and surprising picture, even if you have been been following in the news opposition to schemes like the named person law.
Mostly as a result of said law, parents are being questioned and re-questioned about very normal occurrences in family life and notes are taken about their every response as school authorities drown in paperwork and regularly take children out of class, individually, to question them about most private aspects of their life. When responses are misconstrued (or even construed correctly but deemed, wrongly, to be worthy of intervention) parents are questioned some more and made to feel like criminals.
Take a walk through school corridors and you will see walls plastered in copious, small-printed promotional material for the named person law and what it’s all about. Enter the classroom, have a chat with the teacher and expect to hear the “the Scottish government” referenced repeatedly. Also, do not have a young child that gets nervous or cries as the whole school thing is new to them, because even something as normal as this is regarded as inappropriate and invites questioning.
There is another key part of it all: while information is shared between authorities, parents are growing increasingly frustrated as they are not allowed to find out what has been written down during questioning. The more widespread reality has turned out to be just as expected as I outlined for The Backbencher, here, and when I reported on the scheme in its earlier stages for the Adam Smith Institute, here.
Parents are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent, relationships between parents and teachers are being changed for the worse, there is a culture of suspicion on the part of teachers and of fear on the part of parents, and it isn’t clear that resources are not being diverted from the most serious cases in order to give everyone a named person.
Fundamentally, it is all too apparent that the state and its agents cannot possibly understand the varying personalities of children and their individual natures and needs the way that their own parents can.
All of the above is merely anecdotal information and achieves no more than turning parents experiencing this against the Scottish government, midwives, health visitors and school teachers – the latter three being the people who take on the role of the named person. So, fortunately, and as of this week, the Supreme Court is on side. The law, which is currently being trialled in some parts of Scotland and was posed for blanket enforcement in August, has been declared illegal.
The scheme is illegal because it interferes with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights by overriding confidentiality and requiring the sharing of personal data about parents and children to an unlawful extent. The law is currently contained within the SNP’s Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 but, because of how it breaches the ECHR, it is not actually within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
As a result of this ruling by a panel of five senior UK judges, its implementation will be delayed. The battle is not over yet because the Scottish government is not going forward in a fashion that would suggest it is over, and instead pursuing the scheme as far as they can take it without it being illegal.
John Swinney, Scottish National Party MSP and Deputy First Minister of Scotland, has already said that the principle of the law is not illegal, therefore the government will keep moving forward with it – the difference being that they will “ensure those performing the role have greater clarity about sharing information.”
The Scottish government’s visions, ideology and determination to impose them on Scotland remain intact. So we must be watchful; as watchful as they are of us.