Scotland

Legal bid could delay Named Person Scheme, says Scottish government

Children, generic Image copyright SPL
Image caption The Named Person Scheme will cover all children in Scotland under the age of 18

The introduction of the Named Person Scheme in Scotland could be delayed because of legal action.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney wants to see the UK Supreme Court's ruling on the legislation before giving the go ahead.

The scheme, which will assign a named person to everyone under 18, was due to start from 31 August.

However, if the judgement is not made in the next two weeks, that date will be put back.

The scheme would allow the named person - usually a senior teacher - to provide advice, information or support where appropriate to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of youngsters under the age of 18.

The details of the plan are enshrined in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

However, the move had been criticised as "nanny state" intervention.

Four charities - the Christian Institute, Family Education Trust, The Young ME Sufferers ("Tymes") Trust and Care (Christian Action Research & Education) - along with three individuals, lodged an appeal against the scheme.

The UK Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the provision is compatible with fundamental common law rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In September of last year, the Court of Session dismissed the campaigners' arguments as "hyperbole".

'Not enough health visitors'

Simon Calvert, spokesman for the "No to Named Persons" campaign, was "pleased" that Mr Swinney was considering a delay.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament's education committee, Mr Swinney said there was a "theoretical possibility" that a judgement would not be made before 31 August.

He added: "It would not be prudent or responsible for government to commence legislation while a decision from the court is still pending as this would potentially create confusion on both practical and legal grounds.

"I would wish to make clear that this contingency planning in no way undermines this government's commitment to the named person policy."

MSPs at Holyrood voted to approve the named persons system by 103 votes to nil in 2014.

Mr Calvert insisted that as well as legal problems, the scheme had been "plagued by practical problems".

He added: "More than a million kids are meant to be assigned a named person but there aren't enough health visitors or teachers to implement the scheme. That may be partly behind this concession.

"Mr Swinney has a full in-tray to cope with. But the named person scheme is probably his biggest headache and perhaps by announcing this pause he is hoping to secure time to fully review the problems which it will doubtless unleash if it ever goes ahead. We can only hope so."

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